What on earth is going on? Not only we have a French Revolution, but now an English Civil War has broken out. Let’s look at England first of all, indeed let’s completely ignore the French, what they have done collectively is just plain daft, on every level.
Times have changed since Sir Alf and Bobby Moore led England to their one and only trophy, indeed they have changed beyond all belief in the 20 years since Italia 90.
With Sky and other media camped on the doorstep of ‘Team England’ in Rustenberg, there is a need for news every five minutes. This leads to journalists and players filling their endless hours with occasional snippets for us punters. If we just switch the lot off and take no notice, perhaps things will change. Then again, can we actually do this? Probably not. History however, suggests that we the punters actually drive the demand for ‘news’ whether it has any grounds or not.
If we go back to Italia 90, we go back into very different days. Not only did we not have social networking, we did not have mobiles ( really) digital cameras or indeed anyway of communicating outside of postcards, land line telephones and speech. Media controlled it all. TV and newspapers were king. I remember being in the Forte Village near Caligari in Sardinia, the hotel where Bobby Robson and his coach Don Howe were staying, the day after England had drawn with the Republic of Ireland. The English media, or more accurately the English press led by Harry Harris of the Mirror, Brian Woolnough of The Sun and Joe Melling of the Daily Express led mass assault on Mr Robson’s door, demanding to know what the hell was going on. These were the same newspaper reporters that had demanded that England be sent home, such was their display against the Irish. The same reporters that sat in a bar after the game and compared notes, got an accord on the ‘angle’ and drew their daggers as one. I know this not because I read it in their miserable ‘newspapers’ but because I saw it with my own eyes. Indeed a good friend of mine and I hounded Harris for years to come, because he quite frankly had it in for the England football team. I don’t know whether Harry ever played football, maybe he did, but he certainly never showed an ounce of sympathy with England players. Even the ‘respected’ journalist Jeff Powell (from the Daily Mail) would be seen to fall off many a bar stool post match, before meeting up with colleagues to discuss ‘what line was being taken’. Anyway, these were different days. The players, through senior professionals injured captain Bryan Robson and Gary Lineker, approached Bobby Robson and suggested a change of tactics. The tactics were duly changed in time for the last group game against Egypt, which we sneaked 1-0 through a goal by the new sweeper in th 3-5-2, Mark Wright.
The rest was history, Bobby Robson became a legend, the players all loved him and with a bit of luck England got through to the semi-finals and then lucked out against the Germans, just before we were able to take on our nemesis from four years previous, Mr Maradonna and his famous left hand.
Fast forward to 2010 and we have our ex skipper, ex for good reason, deciding to hold a press conference, yesterday. A clear the air meeting with the boss of all bosses is announced and flowered up with stuff like ‘I was born for this’. The press, through their Twitter accounts urge Mr Capello to ‘listen to the players’ after all the system and approach we have taken has definitely not worked. The meeting is then held and today another Chelsea superstar, Frank Lampard decides to hold a press conference to ‘lighten the mood, support ‘JT’ and the manager and tell us all about the merits of David Beckham ‘(off the pitch rather than on it).
The eventful 24 hours ends with Mr Capello doing his press conference and declaring that ‘John Terry has made a big mistake’. All very confusing and frankly a little too out in the open for anyone’s liking. Poor old Joe Cole, disregarded by Mr Capello and seconded by ‘JT’. He must feel like he is between a rock and a hard place ( you can put ‘JT’ and Mr Capello in either of those roles!).
I have no idea who is right or wrong, or indeed whether anyone IS right or wrong. All I know is of you look at winning managers, people like Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho, would they allow an ex Captain and still in the team, come out in public and criticise them? Really? Like it or not, and I happen to like it, Steven Gerrard is our skipper. If anyone was going to talk to the manager or indeed the press, should it not be him?
Mr Capello comes from the old school. Maybe a little outdated when managing or using post modernist language, ‘working with’ modern day footballing millionaires, but he has won at the top level. Ok not a World Cup, but pretty much everything else. In the modern era Italians have a vastly superior record to the English. Through rigid discipline, adherence to tactics, professionalism and a belief, they have won two World Cups since we last won one. Pop next door to Germany and they have won two since losing the final in 66.
Given our brilliant qualifying campaign and our equally woeful record in World Cups (one semi in 44 years, failing to qualify for three World Cups since we won) you would think that our players would have the sense to sit up and listen. Equally our players are not Italian and have different playing attributes. There are some major concerns with the way we line up, the tactics we play and the pace at which we play the game.
Surely it is time for a rethink, a discussion and above all a coming together? Mr Terry and Mr Capello have crossed swords, never a good thing for two strong characters. Indeed did Terry have any hand in removing Grant and Scolari at Chelsea? But to do it in public feels wrong, maybe it is time to kiss, make up and stop including the wretched media all of whom seem to believe they have a right to not only pick the team, but blueprint the tactics and approach.
The talking stops in less than 48 hours. Let’s see what the players do, after all it is them passing, tackling and shooting. Talking off the pitch is great, but only when the talking on the pitch has been done.
Sir Alf and Sir Bobby would be turning in their respectie graves.