Friday 28 March ~
It has been said that when reporting on the national team, the English football press exhibits a collective symptom akin to manic depression – moments of heightened elation are interspersed with longer periods of black despair. The ratio of soaring highs to plunging lows does of course broadly reflect the pattern of the team's performances over the years but both positions can look equally absurd. It already seems as though the Capello Era will be no different to what has gone before in terms of the way in which the hyper-sensitive press pack responds to defeats.
England played poorly in their defeat in France. Just as a 1-0 win would have been accompanied by a flurry of proclamations about how the new manager had created a team of world-beaters so we now hear that Fabio Capello is "clueless". Players will always rail against managers when they feel under-appreciated. Michael Owen, who by common consent has lost much of his pace through repeated injuries, was clearly annoyed by not being in the starting line-up against France. His displeasure has duly been whipped up into a rift "that threatens to end his England career".
There is also widespread bafflement that English players with the Premier League's top four are nothing like as effective for the national side as they are for their clubs, with Martin Lipton in the Mirror naming eight who are "coveted across the continent". But we've been down this path before. The 1970s was the worst decade ever for the England team which failed to qualify for three international tournaments in succession. At the same time, English clubs such as Liverpool, Nottingham Forest and Leeds were winning major European trophies.
All those clubs contained England internationals but they also had several players from the UK, notably Scots, in key positions. English players have nearly always needed “foreigners” around them to make an effective team. If Fabio "Clueless" Capello is unable to get his message across it could be that the fault lies with the recipients.