LONDON: Fabio Capello became the latest victim of the “impossible job” after a four-year reign which had once seemed poised to end decades of English failure before it finally unravelled in disarray.
When Capello was appointed in December 2007, the experienced Italian appeared to be the right man at the right time, just what the doctor ordered after the shambles of Steve McClaren’s ill-fated regime.
Here was a no-nonsense football heavyweight, a steely disciplinarian with impeccable credentials who would restore order amongst an English squad widely regarded as over-indulged and under-achieving.
For a while it seemed as if Capello could do no wrong, and early results appeared to vindicate his hardline approach which included banning visitors to the team hotel, including WAGS (wives and girlfriends) while outlawing mobile phones, flip-flops and player nicknames.
The conviction that Capello might be the man capable of turning England into world-beaters took off after his team dismantled Croatia 4-1 in Zagreb in a September 2008 World Cup qualifier.
“He has a seriousness about him, instilling winning as an attitude,” the then Football Association chairman Lord David Triesman enthused.
“What we’ve got in Capello is someone who is building something the England fans can justifiably see as step-by-step progress. And that’s what we need: no flash in the pan, long-term success.”
As long as England kept winning — and their progress towards the 2010 World Cup in South Africa continued in the same assured vein — few were willing to begrudge Capello his 6 million annual salary.
Yet the first signs that Capello might just have feet of clay began to emerge in the months leading up to the 2010 World Cup.
His decision to sack John Terry as captain following newspaper revelations of an affair with the ex-girlfriend of England and Chelsea team-mate Wayne Bridge received broad support.
However senior FA officials were unhappy when it emerged the England manager had endorsed a player-rating website known as the “Capello Index” shortly before the World Cup.
The launch of the website was later postponed.
Capello’s squad selection for South Africa also raised eyebrows.
It emerged he had unsuccessfully attempted to lure Paul Scholes out of international retirement, while including the notoriously injury prone Ledley King, and the recuperating Gareth Barry, as well as bringing veteran Jamie Carragher out of international retirement to little effect.
Each decision seemed to fly in the face of Capello’s oft-stated philosophy of only picking players who were in form and fully fit.
Once in South Africa, England’s campaign lurched from one disaster to the next.
Off the pitch, England players were unhappy at being shuttered away at a remote luxury compound, isolated from the excitement of the tournament. — AFP