Hello England. I hope you’re all well.
I trust you were as impressed as I was with our side’s polished, disciplined and well rounded performance against a good Swiss team last night. Let’s not forget, that was a side who’s industry and determination managed to beat the World Champions just over two months ago.
Which brings me to my first point; The World Cup.
Firstly, I’m sorry. With the possible exception of the first three minutes, we were thoroughly disappointing throughout and I take all responsibility for that. I took the 23 players I thought would serve us best and put the 11 on the field I thought would get us a result. We didn’t, so I’ve been forced to scrutinize my decisions. Would Joe Hart have been a better choice in goal? Perhaps. Could Theo Walcott have given us more options from the bench than Shaun Wright-Phillips? More than likely. Was Steven Gerrard wasted out wide? Certiantly.
These are three issues I’ve been able to address in our recent qualifiers, Hart looks assured between the posts, Walcott has made a great start to the season and Gerrard has been giving fantastic displays from the middle of the park. Lessons learned then, not that it’ll be much consolation for the failures of the summer.
But it’s important to put that behind us now. The wounds may take a while to heal, and I appreciate that my very right to be your manager is now on the line but for us to get results we have to be forward-thinking. Players like Adam Johnson, Phil Jagielka and James Milner are key to our immediate future and I’m sure you’ve all been impressed by their desire and application in an England shirt.
However, it’s important not to expect too much too soon of the likes of Jack Wilshire, Andy Carroll and Jack Rodwell. They might be a key part of the side’s future, they might not, either way they won’t be helped by having too much expectation put on them at this stage. We have a terrific under-21s set up in this country, ran by some of the best youth coaches in the world, and that’s currently the right place for them to play their football. Don’t worry though, when the time is right, I won’t hesitate to bring them in.
I know I’ve attracted some criticism for sticking with the players who didn’t perform in South Africa for our opening qualifiers but here we are, two games in with maximum points and vastly improved performances from the entire team. The few new faces I’ve brought in have all excelled themselves and we look far more cohesive both going forward and at the back. Make no mistake, these were two huge games for us, bad displays here could have really rocked our entire qualification and this wasn’t pressure I was willing to expose our brightest young talents to just yet.
Both I and the players owe you the fans a debt from the World Cup and we all hope the last two games can be a start towards repaying that. The road to Poland and Ukraine will be a long one and it’ll be a great opportunity to phase in the new for the old. But I’m sure you’ll all agree, getting a good start was vital and sticking with a degree of experience was, in my opinion, the way to get that. We’ve done that now and got two of the groups tougher games out of the way, so now we can build from here.
As for other selection issues, it’s no big secret that England lack a creative element in the middle of the park. Make no mistake, we’ve produced some exceptional midfielders in recent years, solid, determined, passionate, box-to-box midfielders who can grab a game by the scruff of a next and have regularly dragged their club sides, kicking and screaming, to a result. Unfortunately, the international scene doesn’t work like that. Ball retention, creativity and the ability to pick a pass that completely changes a game are paramount and it’s been too long since we’ve produced a player capable of that. Joe Cole is in that mould, his vision is exemplary, his ability is unquestionable, but he lacks the discipline to sit back, get his foot on the ball and dictate the pace of the game and that’s we’re desperatelylacking.
These were the reasons behind my courting of Mikel Arteta, he is the type of player we’re missing and, in my opinion, could be the final piece in the England footballing puzzle.
It’s a controversial issue, but I believe it’s the right way to go. I have the support of my staff, of the players and of the Football Association, but if the fans can’t or won’t back me on it, then you have my word that he won’t play for England while I’m in charge and that’s the last you’ll hear of it. From what I gather though, it seems to be a bigger outrage for the media than it does to the supporters.
Which brings me to my last point, and my most important; the press.
You play an important role in the sport in this country, greater than I believe you even realise. You reflect the opinions of some and even help shape the opinions of others, but over the last few years your relentless pursuit of a story has started to make some sections of the press more of a hinderance than a help. I stress the term ‘some sections’ because I consider the majority of the newspaper industry in this country to be amongst the very best I have ever dealt with. England’s football league is the world’s football league and as such, your football press, is the world’s football press.
Should footballer’s actions be above reproach? Of course not, these are the role models for millions of children across the planet and they must never be allowed to be complacent about how they present themselves. However, there is a line, and it’s being crossed repeatedly. Are the intimate details of their personal lives really justifiably in the public’s interest? I don’t think they are. What they do on the pitch is your business, nothing else.
Whilst we can hark back to the previous point of them being role models for children, I would challenge any journalist to find me a single aspiring young footballer who no longer idolises Wayne Rooney because of his recent alleged conduct. Kids will aspire to be footballer’s no matter how much you smear their reputation.
I’ll acknowledge that there’s an exception in the Wayne Bridge/John Terry incident because eventually, the public would have had a right to know why the former had retired from international football. But in my opinion, this the only exception.
The choice you have is simple. You can rake through the bins of the team’s players and push whatever you find as ‘news’ if you feel you must. But in doing so, you must hold your hands up and accept some responsibility for the same players turning up at tournaments with visible concentration issues and dramatic dips in personal confidence. You can’t have it both ways.
There is a much bigger issue of why footballer’s behave this way. Maybe the reason we’ve got so many twenty-something playboys having affairs is because plucking young boys out of school, telling them their going to be the kings of the entire world, then giving the small percentage that actually make it more money than they know how to handle, isn’t the best way to build a strong moral character. That’s not today’s issue though.
So, we’ve had a good start, we’re in a strong position and the future of English football looks exciting again. So how about we all start pulling together, forget the negativity and the disappointments of the summer are really enjoy our football again. We’ll try and get you the results you all deserve and we’ll try and do it with a combination of grit, determination and style that I’m sure you’d all like to see.
But make no mistake, there will be testing times up ahead for us all. We may struggle against lesser opposition, or certain players may be hit by a sever dip in form. Regardless, all I’m asking from you the fans, and especially the media, is help us get through it and to try and keep it all in perspective. Together, we can be great.
Fabio Capello x