Dec 20, 2007

The View From Blighty: Smoods Sounds Off On Capello Hire

My workmate Smoods (an actual Brit!) had such a good time with his first article, he wrote me another. Actually, two more! But the second will have to wait until tomorrow. Here is the first:

So for the first time in about, oh, 18 months, the English national team has a tactically astute foreign coach with a string of club successes on his C.V. This should be interesting.

The most amazing thing about first Sven’s and now Fabio Capello’s hirings is the fact that otherwise jingoistic and xenophobic English soccer fans don’t seem to have a problem with it. These are the same fans who sing “I’d rather be a Paki than a Turk” when facing Turkey and who’s rioting led to the cancellation of a game against the Republic of Ireland. And yet there’s barely any protest at a move that screams surrender to Johnny Foreigner.

And if the principle is hard to take, the reality should make even more refined fans wince. It used to be that foreign coaches were for the sport’s third-world countries. Hiring a foreigner was like calling in the IMF—it was done by struggling nations wanting to get better. Now, can you imagine Gordon Brown calling in the IMF to help with a tanking British economy? Fuck no! And yet the idea that England has willingly dragged itself down to the level of Chad and Saudi Arabia passes with barely a protest.

If you can get past such thoughts, it’s hard to argue with Capello’s qualifications. The man wins trophies and is rightly considered one of the top coaches on the planet. Short of luring Arsene Wenger or Jose Mourinho, the FA has probably found the best man for the job. He’s won the Serie A title with three different clubs over a 15-year period (if you ignore match fixing scandals) and La Liga twice in the only two years he’s coached in Spain. He also won the Champions League with the most jaw-dropping final performance in the competition’s history.

But here’s the problem: if England screw up with him in charge, who gets blamed? With the exception of Terry Venables, the blame is always with England’s managers. With Capello that won’t be possible, so what then? Blame the Germans? The referee? Penalty kicks? Maybe it’ll be the players who get it in the neck. Failure by a Capello-managed England team will surely make fans and media ask whether the players are simply not tactically and/or technically good enough. Wouldn’t it be something if England had face the fact that it simply isn’t as good as the Brazils, Italys and Argentinas of the world?

1 comment:

  1. Granted, I'm an Irish-American, but my view on the issue of hiring coaches from other nations is this: What matter does it make? At the end of the day, the players on the field decide the game. Certainly a national team manager can't be responsible for the technical skills of players who spend most of the time with their clubs. So, all he's got to do is pick the right time with the right formation to defeat the other team, and let the players play. It'd be nice if a coach could be from the native land, but if you can find someone better from overseas, why handicap yourself?

    At the end of the day, fans just want their team to win.