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Capello: Method to the madness?

Here we go again: The manager’s lost the plot, the players aren’t happy, another PR disaster; the list of familiar cries continues. Fabio Capello’s apparent handling of the England captaincy dilemma has certainly reignited the frustrations of a nation struggling to come to terms with a national side which fails to reflect the image and stature of its domestic game. Capello has again risked his reputation to make a big decision, followed by an even bigger risk to revert back to Plan A, but not for the first time.

In January 2007, when Capello was in charge of Real Madrid, both manager and club were left reeling when David Beckham announced he was to leave the club at the end of the season, to take on a new challenge with MLS side LA Galaxy. With the daily dramas of life at one of football’s most successful, but at times, most turbulent clubs, paired with the global media circus following one of the game’s biggest stars, Capello decided this latest episode was one too many. As news spread of Beckham’s confirmed departure, Capello announced that despite Beckham’s last six months in Madrid would be served from the fringes, having concluded that Beckham would have one eye on his move, and would be distracted from Capello and Real’s push for the La Liga title.

As Beckham found himself on the sidelines, Real’s season faltered as they struggled to cope without the former Manchester United man. By the end of February, they had been eliminated from the Champions’ League and trailed Barcelona in the league. At this point, Capello would make a very public U-Turn by recalling Beckham, a move which paid dividends, as Capello’s men regained their form and surged to the title, with Beckham being given a hero’s send-off by the Bernabeu faithful, as he departed for pastures new.

Three years on, Capello finds himself in a similar predicament. An underachieving side in need of change. While it is clear to see the national side’s problems lie far deeper than who wears the armband, walks at the front of the line and calls the coin toss, the manager has to amend the problems within his control. On this occasion, his team lack leadership, a team apparently in transition, lack a regular leader to provide a stable spine to the side.

While Terry was initially removed from his position due to his off-field indiscretions, a year on, it is clear that none of the candidates to replace him have been notably clear of controversy, either on or off-field. Although Rio Ferdinand cannot be held deliberately responsible for the loss of his captaincy, it is becoming clearer that he cannot manage enough appearances to become the cornerstone of a side keen to build throughout the current campaign, with a view to competing in Poland and Ukraine in 2012, and it must also be noted that Ferdinand, to his credit, personally informed Terry of his desire to see Terry and England succeed, with or without his input. With nobody regularly holding down the captaincy, as Terry, like Capello, watched the armband passed to the official third, fourth and even fifth choice player, while the manager’s original choice played the full game without being considered. This would surely leave Capello wondering if he was cutting his nose off to spite his face.

While opinions vary as to how much of a player’s personal life should be considered in relation to professional merits, Terry’s credentials as a captain are unquestioned. For almost a decade, Chelsea’s first-choice central defence has consisted of Terry plus one. He has also held down his place in the England side regularly since replacing the impressive Sol Campbell. Although some would say Terry’s previous controversies make him unworthy of the honour of captaining his country, even the most cynical England fan would surely hope this would not happen again, while even Terry himself has declared recent episodes in his life have left him wiser for the experience.

The decision is ultimately a gamble, but as history has shown, this would not be the first time Fabio Capello has accepted defeat and reverted to his tried and tested blueprint. John Terry’s reappointment may be with a view to more long-term effects than Beckham’s end of season Madrid resurgence, but Capello will be hoping for similar results, playing to the obvious strengths available to him, in order to overcome the toughest obstacles to ultimately satisfy the English media and the English public… If that’s actually possible…

Daniel Clarke-

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