It's Harry's game as Capello era ends

England National Team

As the dust clears from the impact of the news that Fabio Capello had called it a day with/been fired by England, the Football Association have a minor headache to deal with in their search for a replacement.

Harry Redknapp.
Harry Redknapp
Harry Redknapp has had his name on the job for some time, at least since Tottenham Hotspur's dazzling display in last year's Champions League convinced the doubters he could cut it in international football. But what will Spurs chairman Daniel Levy be thinking tonight, only hours after breathing a sigh of relief that his coach had been acquitted of tax evasion at Southwark Crown Court. Levy has played hardball more than once before when his star attraction wanted to leave.

Tottenham are flying this season again, third in the league, seven points off the leaders and playing the most attractive football in the country. The loss to Spurs of their mercurial manager will be painful for a club finally
sniffing success after years of frustration. Qualifying for the Champions League may seem immaterial as Redknapp was always going to leave for England in the summer, but a league championship would have been a fitting send-off. Perhaps Redknapp will wait until July, or take the job part-time from now, but however one looks at it, the unexpected end of Capello's England career has left a right mess for the F.A. to clean up.

Capello won around two-thirds of his games and England most recently beat World Champions Spain, but lost when it counted, miserably against Germany at the World Cup Finals in South Africa. England were lethargic and insipid from the moment they touched down and lost Rio Ferdinand to injury, failed to beat the USA and Algeria before they scraped past Slovenia, only to be thrashed in the second round.

He has manifestly failed for the first time in his career, and his English misadventure tarnishes his previously exemplary record. Never mastering the language helped nobody, while his stern style, although at first praised for instilling much-needed discipline in his overpaid charges, became brittle and unhelpful in the final dispute which caused his downfall.

Pride came before his fall, as the Italian publicly slammed his employers on RAI television, precipitating an acrimonious parting of ways today in London. He was foolish to speak out like that, but the F.A. also failed to establish an effective relationship in the first place where both parties respected each other. Being overruled over John Terry's captaincy for a second time was too much for Fabio to take.

Yet sadly Capello always seemed a hired gun rather than an integral team member, his poor English hampering a full immersion into a country and its football culture. Allegedly eschewing the telephone, Capello's communication line to the F.A. became fatally garbled when assistant Franco Baldini, who spoke fluent English, left to become Roma's general manager last autumn.

Redknapp seems to tick all the boxes for England, but we must hold our horses before we can toast our first silverware since 1966. Will the inability to bring in foreign players do for chequebook-happy Harry, and will the lack of regular games frustrate his pally style? Or will the higher level of competition simply prove too much for his abilities?

Has a nation once again got drunk on the idea of a magical saviour instead of looking at the bigger picture of a national football culture behind Germany's in organisation and tactics and trailing Holland and Spain in terms of technique? And why has the F.A. still not introduced a winter break, one of the key reasons for England's demise at the World Cup, which Capello highlighted.

Played 42, Won 28 (67%), Drew 8, Lost 6
World Cup 2010: Second Round

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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