The ordeal is over. Fabio Capello’s reign of four years is finished, ended in a day of dramatic events. As soon as the jury at Southwark Crown Court ruled Harry Redknapp ‘not guilty,’ Capello’s time in charge was left hanging by a thread. Already set for showdown talks with his FA bosses, the Italian’s destiny was already essentially sealed.
His resignation may not come as much of a surprise. Capello has seemed unhappy in England for some time, his refusal to learn the language or even attempt to win over the media sharks are proof of this. His paymasters (that pay some serious wages!) were clashing with the boss on regular occasions and the John Terry saga proved too much. For a man with such an authoritarian nature, having his power challenged like that was too much. As soon as the FA removed Terry from the England captaincy, they had undermined the man they pay £6 million a year once too often. And gone was Fabio, taking all his Italian backroom staff with him, not to mention a handsome sum for his troubles.
So what impact will it have on England? Well, you wouldn’t go as far to say there are waves of euphoria sweeping round the country, but considering England have been left without a captain or a manager just four months before a major tournament, the mood is surprisingly cheery. Capello’s popularity in the country has dropped considerably since the 2010 World Cup, the shocking performances, his stubborn refusal to change tactics and his rather sulky demeanour ever since have not exactly endeared him to the English public. The lack of hype or expectation surrounding the trip to Poland/Ukraine is astonishing, the country is normally kitted out with England fever long before the summer months. This is because, for the first time in years, people genuinely expect England to do badly. The golden generation of players have turned more of a shade of silver recently, and whilst the youngsters replacing them offer fine potential, they are all untried at the top level and lack the experience of say, the Spanish or the German talents. Qualifying wasn’t overly traumatic, but there were disappointing draws with Switzerland and Montenegro twice that dampened English spirits considerably, especially considering the performance levels on show. Even Capello’s best win recent times, over Spain at Wembley in November, still came with drop of disappointment, as people just cast it to one side, stating ‘Oh, it could never happen at the EURO’s.’ As for the group England have been drawn into, well again, it failed to provoke any passion, it could have been worse, it could have been better. The thing is, the Capello era has taken the fun out of being an England fan. Everyone’s sick of the in-fighting, the constant off-the-field problems of the players themselves (admittedly not Fabio’s fault), and the subdued performances everyone witnesses when the Three Lions do take to the pitch.
With this in mind, there is no debate over the next England manager. Firstly, it has to be an Englishman. We’ve been through the foreigner debate. Capello was supposed to be the winner with the capital W. He’d done it all in club football. It was the same with Sven before him. Whatever your opinion of Sven and his time in charge of England, there is no doubt Capello has proved worse than the Swede. So who will be next? Well, obviously Redknapp is the favourite by a considerable distance and fair enough. Harry is 64, has been around English football and is doing a wonderful job with Spurs. He is the player’s first choice, the people’s first choice and surely the FA’s first choice now he’s been cleared of all charges. The only thing standing in his way is Tottenham Hotspur. If Redknapp had taken the role after EURO 2012, all would be fine, Daniel Levy would have chance to find a successor and Harry could have finished the job he started at White Hart Lane. There is a conundrum now. Redknapp won’t want to leave Spurs in the lurch, especially while they still have a shot at the Premier League title. He says he hasn’t thought about the England job, but it’s clear he’s in a difficult position. Obviously the chance to manage your country is one Harry would love to take on, but agreeing a departure from Spurs will be tough. The only solution appears to be letting Redknapp continue until the end of the season, juggling both roles simultaneously. This isn’t ideal for either party, Spurs don’t want their manager concentrating on something else, while England need someone working full-time, especially when the tournament is just four months away.
The FA need to find a way round these logistical problems. Other candidates have barely been discussed. Roy Hodgson’s name is still near the top of the bookmakers’ lists which shows how obvious it is who Capello’s successor is. Maybe Martin O’Neill will be considered, but he’s only just taken on the role at Sunderland. Guus Hiddink has a superb record at international level, but seems only to take jobs on nowadays depending on the size of the paycheck and an uncommitted foreigner is the last thing England need. Mourinho is a possibility, but would never get on with the FA, whilst Arsene Wenger still clings the hope that his Arsenal youngsters will start producing. And we certainly don’t want Stuart Pearce.
So Redknapp is definitely the man for the job, whether part-time or full-time. People can start to get excited for the tournament again, as one thing Harry will guarantee is players playing with pride for their countries again. Bring it on I say. By June, Capello will be a distant memory and this whole affair could have inspired England to glory. Or they could go out in the first round and no-one wants Harry anymore either…