It’s always a weird thing, being an Irish fan of English football. I mean, virtually all Irish football fans are fans of English football. Mostly either Manchester United, or if you’re a particularly cool and interesting person, Liverpool FC. It doesn’t translate to being a fan of the England team. Not at all. In fact, I actively root for (forgive the Americanism) any team playing against the English on every possible occasion. Players I ordinarily like become objects of ridicule and players I dislike become something more awful entirely.
Thing is, I enjoy watching England lose on the field, but that doesn’t translate to wishing ill of everyone involved with the team. In fact, a rather weird thing happens: because I know all of the players and I am familiar with the manager, I tend to develop pretty strong opinions about the England team that are by no means all unfavourable. For example, one of my pet peeves is the manner in which the English press insists on constantly deriding their national team’s level of skill. Do they have any idea? Have they seen Ireland’s midfield recently?
I also can’t stand how the exact same people who write in detail about how bad England are will simultaneously take as Gospel the fact that players like Rio Ferdinand and John Terry should start no matter what. There’s this whole system of talking certain players up while essentially mocking the team as a whole. It’s frustrating: really, the only thing English journalists care about is pumping up the personnel on the England team to increase the hype surrounding them so that when the team ultimately fails the press can round on them as a whole, perhaps occasionally calling out some poor bugger that isn’t friends with that many journalists. Or the ‘keeper. The fact of the matter is, if the England players could find a spot somewhere between rampant tabloid-fuelled insecurity and rampant tabloid-fuelled overconfidence, they could win some tournaments. Should win some tournaments, in fact.
It’s a joke. The whole thing’s a joke. Now they’ve lost a competent manager.
Before I go on, I should clarify a little. I don’t have any issue with Capello leaving. It’s pretty interesting that the reaction of the Italian press is that Capello deliberately fell on his sword, or at least came somewhere close to that. His defence of Terry was bizarre and at the very least insensitive. It is by no means a stretch, in my view, to claim that he was looking for a way out. I think that’s because Capello was crushed by the 2010 World Cup. He hasn’t cared about the England job since and it had long become a pay cheque. I don’t blame him. Not even a little bit. The fact is, England lost a competent manager in 2010 and it’s about time they sorted things out.
Capello was betrayed, betrayed utterly in 2010. That England team had bulldozed its way to the World Cup. They had looked magnificent in qualification. The team had a solid shape, nice and solid at the back, a decent amount of talent up front and a midfield that was genuinely competitive at a world class level. Not at the level of a World Cup; a world class level. They got to the World Cup, various morons otherwise identified as England players started talking about winning the tournament, and then John Terry decided he was allowed to give judgements on managerial decisions in public. All of that was trouble enough, except then the team went on to completely embarrass themselves on the field. David Beckham, for some confusing reason was walking around and acting like he was managing the team while expertly avoiding any degree of blame at all. Capello ended up coming under fire after the Germans made the accident waiting to happen a reality and made England’s humiliation completely inescapable.
It was completely unfair. I remember Capello during that tournament. I don’t think he was able to believe it. This team that he had taken together and had gotten playing as a unit arrived at a major tournament, decided they had already won it and focused on playing politics with the media and playing like crap. What was he supposed to do? Well, it turns out he decided the solution was to keep taking the FA’s money but to stop caring. I think the decision was pretty clear: they (the players) clearly don’t respect me enough to perform at a tournament and are happy to let me twist in the wind, so I don’t have any incentive to really care about them.
And now he’s gone. More power to him. Harry Redknapp will come along and everything will be hunky dory, apparently. Until they turn on him.
Here’s the thing: the media loves Harry Redknapp. Players love him. If he can’t get an England team firing, well… you did the right thing, Fabio.