It’s a good thing that Alan Shearer can read a football match, because judging from the comments he made on Five Live tonight around 9.15pm, he can’t read between the lines of a corporate statement.
Believing in the idea that Capello, as Shearer repeatedly suggested, somehow ‘doesn’t care enough’ (and is therefore able to walk away three months before the start of a major tournament) just betrays a failure to understand that when it comes to it, he’s gone against his will. While he has technically ‘resigned’, to all intents and purposes he’s been pushed out. Or fired, if you want.
The clue to this being the case is in the absence of any expression, in the FA statement, of regret about his departure. Had he genuinely resigned, then without any question the FA would have said that they accepted his resignation ‘with regret’ (or similar). In fact, what they need is for him to go, but for people to believe – a la Shearer – that it was all Fabio’s choice. It wouldn’t serve to have someone who is potentially key to the successful outcome of a campaign which finishes in three months seen to have been kicked out.
That it needs to be painted that way will be deemed better for Capello as well, since it’s nicer to say that you quit than that you were kicked out. But in reality, by failing to consult him on the John Terry decision, the FA had made his position untenable. As became clear from his subsequent television interview, he was totally emasculated – a fact which was lost neither on him, nor the FA. And while they might have been able to point to a clause in his contract which showed that they have the ultimate over-ride for decisions, they would not have wanted to get into a debate about unfair dismissal. The result was that they came to a compromise agreement, and in exchange for whatever payout is now being (or maybe has already been) discussed between lawyers, Capello will have had to say that he has decided to go.
Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing clearly depends on what you thought of him as a manager, but for anyone to suggest that he’s gone because he doesn’t care is just daft. But it’s also profoundly depressing, because it will add to the clamour (viz Wayne Rooney’s tweets) that the next manager has to be English, as if by sharing the side’s nationality, it means that he’ll care more. Apparently, the need for such affiliation by birth makes no difference at a local level – a Scot can care about a city as much as a Scouser or a Mancunian, it would seem – but when it comes to coaching England, apparently only Englishmen need apply.
This sort of thinking makes me weep – and not just because it means that the names mooted to take over (even for the short term) therefore include Stuart Pearce. It’s because, surely, the objective has to be to get the person who is best for the job (which is to deliver an international trophy with the best English players available). If that ends up by coincidence being an Englishman (and in Harry Redknapp, it may well be) then brilliant for us all; but though Pearce may, in the eyes of some, lead the young English crop, there surely can’t be anyone in the country who genuinely believes that, passionate player though he was, he can possibly be thought of in the top rank of managers.
No other sport has this obsession with the idea that the national team’s coach has to be English. No-one’s batted an eyelid that Andy Murray’s hired a Czech; the Great Britain rowing team has a record envied by the world over the last 20 years, under the leadership of a German; English cricket went from bottom of the world rankings to second under a Zimbabwean. Why should football have to have this obsession with nationality, if not because, while tying itself in knots recently about whether an uncomfortable faction within it might be racist, the sport has missed the extent to which it is xenophobic?