Captaincy chaos shows Capello has lost it
Annie Eaves writes a humourous column for MirrorFootball every Tuesday. But today, she's deadly serious...
Last August I wrote an article defending Fabio Capello. I'd become sick of the daily media assassinations regarding his England reign.
As I saw it he was being publicly flogged for having the temerity to be knocked out of a World Cup. I knew fans and the media were hurting, I was hurting myself. Having flown the uncomfortable eight hours to Johannesburg we then had to endure a further nine-hour each way coach journey to Bloemfontein as our trip had been based on England topping the group and playing in Rustenburg. So I had more time to reflect than most.
I thought to myself that though I was gutted, the players would surely be more gutted and their manager would be in turmoil over such a bad campaign. At Heathrow we got the papers, only to see a group of England players drinking, laughing and generally celebrating following our World Cup exit.
Now I'm not naive enough to believe they should lock themselves away out of some duty to the wider public, I'm not naive enough to think that sportsmen don't drink heavily on occasion and indeed smoke.
However I felt they'd be more angry and disappointed than me. I felt that whilst I was on that godforsaken coach they'd be fuming and sulking around the hotel. Not because they felt that's what was expected, because that's what they wanted to do. That's what their feelings dictated.
At the time I made excuses for them to myself. I didn't understand. They're professionals winding down. It's the start of their holidays. They're happy to be returning to family. It was the best way they knew to deal with the disappointment.
Since then I've seen the side slowly fall to pieces. Not necessarily in terms of performance but more in terms of actually being a national team we can be proud of. Of course being proud of a team isn't just about winning.
I've said for some time that Capello had lost interest. Following the World Cup he seemed to approach the games with a blasé attitude that was obvious, at least to me, to be that of a man waiting for the sack or indeed running down his contract. Indeed the Italian press has for some time been full of rumours linking him with a technical director role at Juventus.
This latest episode has made the situation worse. John Terry may well be the best choice for England captain, that's an entirely separate debate. Capello had this same group of senior players when he removed the armband from Terry for what we were told was all time. He gave the captaincy to Rio Ferdinand and installed Steven Gerrard as his vice captain.
He didn't have to do this. He didn't have to cement the roles with the permanency he did, just like he didn't have to banish Terry with the permanency he had previously. Rather than our national team and the country concentrating on the forthcoming games the focus will no doubt be on the circus Fabio Capello has now created. Again.
This country has long had a divide between the big clubs of the North and the England team. Many Manchester United supporters feel that England doesn't represent them as much as those in the South. and Liverpool supporters are not far behind in that sentiment. I've often disagreed with this and pointed toward some kind of paranoia or indeed of people using the "I don't care about England" line to somehow add a touch of kudos to their perceived support of their club.
What now for those two set of fans? Manchester United have seen one of their major players publicly humiliated. Not the removal of the captaincy but the clumsy way in which it was done. The hokey-cokey nature of dancing with the media until the truth is revealed late on a Saturday night.
Liverpool will wonder what the position of Steven Gerrard is. Vice-captain? Is there any point to that title when it clearly holds no weight?
Many people will look back on Capello's reign as being unremarkable. As just another England manager in a long line of England managers who weren't able to achieve success. They'd be wrong, for what he has achieved is truly something to marvel at.
He's managed to take the national feeling of malaise toward the team to a new level, he's managed to further the divide between the big Northern clubs and England and he's managed to make the nonsense surrounding the England captaincy even more bizarre than it already was.
That is truly remarkable.
Follow Annie Eaves on Twitter: @eavesydoesit