UPDATE: Gerrard is captain, and the team will know who they are at some time tomorrow. I could have done without this particular choice of words from Capello:
Gerrard is important because he can pass on things, transmit things and inspire the players.
A kind of dread takes hold…
With England due to play tomorrow, there’s plenty of speculation abroad about Fabio Capello’s first actual starting eleven. What’s keeping it going is simple. Capello is telling us absolutely nothing about his intentions, his methods, his thoughts.. anything.
So we guess into the gaps. So far, we have the following:
- You’ll get picked if you’re playing regularly and are not entirely out of form
- There aren’t enough decent English players for squad selection to be entirely a matter of form, and we aren’t sure that’s Capello’s idea in any case
- England are going to start with defence, and Capello doesn’t think it’s good enough as it stands
- He thinks captaincy is extremely important, and is willing to delay the appointment. We don’t know what kind of captain he wants – the lead-by-example Beckham model, the pointless-yelling Terry model, the useful-yelling Adams model, or the glory-boy Gerrard model. It’ll be a shame if it’s the Adams model, as there are no consistently-fit candidates of the required quality..
Now that reports of the first training session are in, we can add some less solidly established points.
For instance, at first sight he seems to have no truck with the idea that the wealth and fame of players kills the idea of the sergeant-major manager. Because there he stands, high and loud in his diadoras and England top, shouting instructions and using surnames.
But that’s just how he runs a training session. We know nothing at all about how he’ll manage team expectations, issues of form and problems from home, rivalry within the squad and cliques. We know he doesn’t believe in being pals with the players, but that’s a feature of every top manager. Ferguson is famous both for teacups at dawn and knowing how to handle players so that they are free to perform. The old fashioned sergeant major wouldn’t have helped Cantona through the injustice the player suffered after worthily demolishing that Palace chav, nor would he have rescued Beckham and Ronaldo from their World Cup nightmares. Capello might work his training with complete authority, but neckless rosbifs looking for a bully are going to be disappointed.
We don’t know how he’s going to handle the press, although you can be sure that he knows what he’s in for. Thus far, his press conferences have been a matter of him patiently talking down to the English journalists: the tone is that of a genial dog trainer who has a bullwhip hidden beneath the desk. I doubt he’ll ever tell them what’s really on his mind, principally because he believes it’s more than they’re capable of taking on board. Unfair on some – Barnes, Winter, Samuels (who has a nice new line in “English football is thick”: I wonder if he’s a lurker here?) and Jim White. Less so on the rest.
Nor do we know why he’s really here. I don’t know: it strikes me that a decent African team are the best bet for a top manager seeking to make history. It’s not money. But although I’m glad he’s here, his describing England managership as “a beautiful job” is worryingly delusional unless he has personal capacity beyond even that of the bulletproof Ericksson. Of course, he could simply regard it as the most difficult job, and want it for that reason. Some people are like that.
Nor do we know what he’s going to be able to do for Stuart Pearce. It might make all the difference.
My choice, then, to face Switzerland:
Kirkland; Richards, Ferdinand, Lescott, Ashley Cole, Joe Cole, Owen Hargreaves (cap), Gareth Barry, David Bentley, Owen, Crouch.
I could just as easily exchange Gerrard for Hargreaves or Barry, and have Rooney in place of Crouch, but personal animus and bias have to come in somewhere where Gerrard is concerned, and I still prefer Owen to Rooney, at least until he’s past 49 goals).
Your thoughts and your teams, please. And your predictions for a scoreline: I’m going for 0-0.