Capello – the most successful England manager of all time?

On the face of it, England did rather well. A great performance in qualifying and undefeated in Group C. They made it through to the final 16 of the World Cup and even scored against Germany. Twice.

I was on a (pre-booked) train during most of the match. I wasn’t expecting to watch it, but when I got my laptop out various strangers took an interest and chipped in for internet access from T-Mobile via the Virgin connection. But the live video was unavailable because of BBC copyright concerns that we might be in some foreign country rather than rolling through the shires between Birmingham New Street and London Euston.

So for a rather bizarre hour or so, four strangers sat around a BBC text site updating us on the dazzling developments every 30 seconds.

It was 2-1 when we left the train, and the rest is history. My mobile phone revealed the final scoreline later and I texted my commiserations to Vanessa.

Three Lions
The Pride of England

It would not be fair to measure Mr Capello’s performance based on the events of recent weeks. While his team played okay against against Slovenia, it was a somewhat less-than-satisfactory show in the other matches. But England won nine out of 10 games in qualifying. That is quite a performance.

The trouble is, England is always expected to qualify. And the manager will always be judged on his final few weeks (ie on the point of failure), especially by the British media.

I simply don’t know enough about football to judge Mr Capello. But I do know England have been short of any serious success for 44 years. Capello’s career in football covers the same era and he has not been short of success.

But here in England there is a wide acceptance that the England players are better than their World Cup performance. A belief that somehow the results are a deceit against the team. Fabio Capello was employed to do better than his predecessors (including such luminaries as Glenn Hoddle, Howard Wilkinson, Peter Taylor and Steve McClaren). He has outperformed them all.

Indeed my analysis of the statistics shows that – at competitive level – he has outperformed every manager in the team’s history. 10 wins to four draws or defeats (two each) is a success rate of 71%. It is an average of 2.3 points per game. Both stats are unrivaled in the team’s history. And it is the same headline fact when friendlies are taken into account.

Fabio Capello is the most successful England manager of all time.

He just lacks a trophy. Or an appearance in a worthy final. Or a semi-final. Or even a quarter-final! How depressing.

To see the team on the pitch, England’s performance in the World Cup matches was humiliating. My colleague, Ibrahim Mustapha has much to say about this at The Ibyss, including other issues for FIFA to explore following the referee’s failure to acknowledge Frank Lampard’s goal.

For me the biggest issue seems to be the opponent. Germany and Argentina are particularly problematic. Don’t mention the wars:

  • World Cup 1966 – England defeated West Germany at Wembley. An anomoly.
  • World Cup 1970 – West Germany defeated England in the quarter-final in extra time.
  • World Cup 1982 – England drew against West Germany in the second round group stage, costing them a place in the semi-final, which the Germans later won.
  • World Cup 1986 – Argentina defeated England in the quarter-final.
  • World Cup 1990 – West Germany defeated England in the semi-final on penalties.
  • Euro 96 – Germany defeated England in the semi-final on penalties.
  • World Cup 1998 – Argentina defeated England in the round-of-16 on penalties.
  • World Cup 2010 – Germany 4, England 1 in the round-of-16.

If this pattern sounds familiar it shoudn’t be a surprise. This stuff really happened. England keep meeting the same opponents, time and again. And losing.

Let us assume they will keep facing the same teams. There are other questions to explore. Are there systemic problems which cause the team to underperform? Are the players too tired after a tough season? Is the Premiership style of play unsuited to international football? Are the WAGs a bad influence? Is the press too hard on the little lambs? Has the coaching style been too relaxed (Sven)? Or too tough (Fabio)?

The World of Wad does not have all the answers. It never does. I leave such erudition to others.

In the meantime, I must go and check whether Northern Ireland made it through to the quarter-finals…

UPDATE: I honestly don’t think this is the time to sack Capello although the mood has been overwhelmingly against him. It seems FA board members are swinging behind him, although this could be led as much by financial concerns as by football.


One thought on “Capello – the most successful England manager of all time?

  1. Since 1966, it is vital for England to be beaten by circumstances

    1970 – England were 2-0 up against West Germany, substituted Bobby Charlton to save him for the semis and lost 3-2. Reserve goalie played poorly as Gordon Banks had come down with food poisoning before the game

    1974 and 1978 they didn’t qualify
    1982 – They were unbeaten with three wins in the opening group and two draws in the strange next group where they had to play Spain and West Germany, but they were clearly benefitted by having to play Cameroon and they got through – England did not play Cameroon despite being in the same group – Clearly unfair – Unsurprisingly this system did not last and was changed for 1986.

    1986 beat by the hand of God
    1990 – Beat on penalties
    1994 – DNQ
    1998 -beat on penalties after the ref showed Becks a red card for a silly bet of petulance when England were on the ascendancy
    2002 – Beat by a goal from the halfway line by eventual champs Brazil
    2006 – Ronaldo’s wink to get Rooney sent off
    2010 – A goal not given for 2-2 could have inspired England – instead…

    Regardless, The whole team was abysmal – Rooney especially proved himself to be not world class. As a United fan, I recognise his talent, but he can get lost in games running round like a headless chicken. Interesting stat is he lost possession more than any other player in the world cup of any team.

    England need to drop players out of form – they rarely do. Hoddle did in 1998, was criticised, but Becks came back to play well in the two games he started in (he played well against Argentina before getting sent off) I think Rooney should have been dropped and also think that would have fired him up.

    Too many players resting on their laurels. Too much talk of players not having enough fun – For four weeks how about working and trying to win the world cup. And in terms of fun, you can have fun wherever you are.

    Capello didn’t do it – But I think he deserves a second chance. In 1988 England were bad in Euro Champs – they kept Robson on and then got to semis of WC.

    This should be a time for Capello to learn from his mistakes and start afresh with a revamped squad. They have the players, but the new breed need to be given a chance. Two of the German team played in their third division last year – and one of them Ozil is being regarded as one of the stars of the tournament. England is rarely brave enough to let young players step up – looked like Eriksson was going to do that with Walcott, but then he didn’t play him!

    Anyway, rant over!

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