World Cup after World Cup, Euro after Euro; the hype becomes unbearable while the reality constantly outcomes into a tragedy. It’s never easy being an England fan, with few precious score lines to counter the abundance of lacklustre results and performances.
Excuses after excuses have been reeled out over the years. Tiredness, too much pressure, media handling, lack of options, the wrong manager; it goes on.
But I am not going to follow these in this article. Instead, I have developed a hunch, a conspiracy theory of sorts. Is it too hard to imagine that the FA maybe controlling the first XI selection choices of the manager?
Capello seemed an interesting choice for the manager of our nation, with a very contrasting philosophy that suggested instant success might not have come about. Though what made me feel more at rest (apart from his football history and the fact that he is one of the best managers of his generation) was his clarification that he chose the team and would field a team based on recent performances for club as well as country.
After an overall impressive qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup, things began going downhill in conjunction with Capello’s initial statements going wayward.
Players who stopped performing well carried on playing thanks to their names; while others who at least deserved a chance were left looking on from the bench wondering when their chance might come.
The fate of the team was obvious to realistic eyes, regardless of refereeing decisions. The powerful figure of Capello appeared weak and toothless; like a man who had accepted fate and saw his £6 million cheque at the end of the tunnel.
So coming back to the conspiracy theory, it starts getting interesting. There were a number of poor performers at South Africa. Rooney, Gerrard, Barry to name a few. Yet regardless of their performances, they played every game. Was Capello hoping that they would suddenly start playing to the top of their game or was he told to keep them as first names on the team sheet?
As with all higher forces in this world, what matters at the end of the day is money. The FA is no different here. Big names equal money. Fans and corporate guests want to see the “biggest and best” players every game. If this does not happen, money will be lost through ticket and shirt sales.
It is obvious that money is all the main heads at the FA care about. If the actual interest of the national team was really at heart, most would leave their job immediately. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
The first XI was not the only shock during the World Cup. Capello seemed to lack a plan b when things were not going well. It could be possible that the FA intervened here as well. Groans went out across the country (apart from in Ian Wright’s household) every time hope turned to an average Shaun Wright-Phillips to turn a game around.
It also did not matter how bad he played, Wayne Rooney was an immovable object in the England line-up. It was a bizarre decision to not even take the slightest of risks and to just field another face with a fresher pair of legs and a possible change in dimension.
Rewind back and even some of the 23-man squad choices were highly questionable. Players with a bigger reputation and more England caps were preferred to brighter, younger talents. Adam Johnson who had effectively put Shaun Wright-Phillips on the bench after his move to Manchester City did not even get a call-up. The most impressive English goalkeeper that season, Joe Hart ended up third choice. While Upson, who helped his team on their way to shipping around 100 goals over the course of the season got the nod ahead of the hard-working and fairly respected Phil Jagielka.
In my opinion, there were two possible reasons for these choices occurring. Either Capello decided to appoint a conservative approach; or the FA stepped in and effectively carried out his £6 million a year job for him. Maybe it was a mix of the two.
Whatever you decide to believe here, it is important to understand that the blame cannot be thrown constantly on the manager year in, year out.
In conclusion, will England ever succeed? In my opinion, until there is a huge shift in personnel within the FA, there will be no chance. But even when that happens, what will stop the new FA personnel doing the same thing?
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