Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Fresh start for the Three Lions
Capello's exit opens door for innovation, change
England's national soccer team got an early start on its spring cleaning this week when Fabio Capello resigned as manager over the Football Association's decision to strip John Terry of the captain's armband.
Given the tension that had built up between Capello and his superiors over the matter the Italian's exit wasn't all that surprising, although no one could have predicted two weeks ago that with just four months until the European Championship England would be without both a coach and a captain.
But as with any type of adversity there is opportunity here, and meaningful opportunity at that.
It's easy to compare England's current situation to a ship not only rudderless, but without a skipper as well, or to characterize it as just another mess the FA has got itself into. Easy, but a wild exaggeration.
The fact is England were never going to win Euro 2012 with Capello in charge, and while they're still unlikely to contend they'll surely be better off with the fresher, more personal approach the incoming manager will bring. And he'll bring it because, as with most managerial changes, the new man will be seen as the antidote to the old.
That ship may lack direction and authority, but once it has both who knows what new waters it will sail. That mess may be intimidating, but once the rags are out the whole thing will look newer, more polished.
These are exciting times for the England setup. Yes, Capello qualified the Three Lions for successive tournaments, but his finest moments as England manager -- wins in Croatia and Germany -- came near the beginning of his tenure, several years before the act went stale.
And he was never able to conquer the anxiety that remains, for his former team, the biggest obstacle blocking achievement.
His replacement will get a fresh start not only in tackling that sense of angst, but in selecting the team as well. Capello often seemed disconnected, reactionary, when it came to separating talent from reputation, which is a big reason why Harry Redknapp is being so widely touted as the next England boss. The current Tottenham Hotspur manager pulls no punches when it comes to the players he uses, the players he trusts.
Be it Redknapp, caretaker manager Stuart Pearce or someone else, Capello's ultimate successor will take over a side that, when last assembled for a competitive match, had an average age of just 26.7 -- a number that included the 31-year-old Terry, who may very well be excluded based solely on ability when next the squad is called together.
It's those sorts of dilemmas that will face the new manager as soon as he is appointed. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are two more players -- each a one-time mainstay of the England squad -- whose international careers will either end or be reborn under the new regime, and there are questions in almost every position that will have to be sorted between the time of the appointment and the next competitive match against France on June 11.
Gareth Barry and Theo Walcott, for example, were consistent starters under Capello and will almost certainly be re-evaluated by the incoming manager. Ashley Cole might be in the same boat. Players like Scott Sinclair, Nathan Dyer and Leighton Baines, on the other hand, may well get serious looks. All three were deemed too unfashionable by Capello and his staff.
Countless other players, positions, scenarios and strategies will also be up for reassessment when the next England manager is installed, and the top-to-bottom examination of the setup can only be good for the Three Lions both in the present and going forward.
For the first time in a decade the national team is about to be remade, probably by an Englishman, and certainly in the spirit of adventure, of innovation, of freshness.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 11, 2012 C8