Posted by sean on April 5, 2009 at 3:53 pm in England with No Comments

It hasn’t been the greatest of years for the England national side. A disappointing 2006 World Cup campaign, engulfed in a media circus of celebrities, WAGS and paparazzi; all lead by the then England manager, Sven Goran Eriksson, and his media-hungry set of players.


Following a disappointing World Cup qualifying campaign, The FA finally tired of the media tycoon manager and hired football’s answer to Donald Duck in Steve McClaren.

Even before his first England game, it was clear to everyone that the appointment was the wrong decision. McClaren had led Middlesbrough to the UEFA Cup Final. Those who put the achievement down as a fluke had their opinions confirmed as fellow-finalists, Sevilla, put 4 goals past the hapless North East side. McClaren, stuck for ideas, just stood on the touchline, his balding head in his hands.

His time as England manager was one to forget by everyone. After identifying the celebrity-status of Beckham as a major thorn in the England national side, he dropped him permanently. When results against some of the weakest sides in Euro 2008 qualifying failed to go England’s way, McClaren issued a grovelling apology to Becks, begging him to come back.

McClaren’s England legacy ended in disaster at Wembley Stadium. After getting a ‘get out of jail free card’ from Israel just days earlier; all he had to do was ensure England drew against Croatia, therefore, in a similar fashion to Middlesbrough’s route to the UEFA Cup final, fluking his way to the European Championships. England lost the game 3-2. A desperately poor Steve McClaren and his assistant, Terry Venables, were sacked the following morning.

As a football fan, I can take defeat and disappointment (I’m a Bath City and Leeds supporter, so am more than familiar with it). What I do not tolerate is underachievers, who think they have a divine right to win games and represent their country, without even trying.

As a player, when you wear the England shirt, it should be one of the greatest honours in your career. Many members of the England squad during this dark era believed they would play for their country regardless of form and attitude – and they were right. Eriksson and McClaren had their favourites. Their favourites who would always play.

The FA were in a mess, both on and off the pitch. Something had to change. Step forward Fabio Capello.

Capello is a veteran of a manager, having won everything possible in both Spain and Italy, including the UEFA Champions League. One of his greatest achievements was with Roma, where he led them the Italian league title – arguably, the equivalent of wining the Premiership with Aston Villa.

A disciplinarian, Capello demands instant respect and commitment from all his players, whether it be in a competitive game or a pre-season friendly.

With a national side full of over-inflated egos and overrated names, this appointment would either be an instant success or, like with Brian Clough at Leeds United, go horribly wrong.

Luckily, the impact was the former. After many drastic changes enforced by Capello, England currently lead their World Cup qualifying group with 5 wins from 5 games. Most importantly, Capello has given the players dignity, respect and a desire to play for their national team. Nobody is guaranteed a place in the team, and if they are lucky enough to wear the national shirt, are expected to play with passion and pride.

Should England reach the finals in South Africa, the WAGS have already been banned, the England team have to eat together, and pie and chips are off the menu.

I am not one of these fans who claim England will win the World Cup in 2010, but whether we are victorious, or crash out in the quarter finals on a penalty shoot out (again), we will do it with dignity and make the whole nation proud.

Well done Capello. Well done England.

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