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Capello takes centre-stage in media spotlight

Italian coach Fabio Capello will have to re-shape, re-structure and resurrect England with the dazzling spotlight of the media analysing every move he makes.

sports Updated: Dec 17, 2007 17:17 IST
Mike Collett

Italian coach Fabio Capello will have to re-shape, re-structure and resurrect England with the dazzling spotlight of the media analysing every move he makes.

Capello, 61, must not only undertake the job of transforming England from mediocre also-rans to world beaters but in doing so contend with a level of press intrusion that will test his sanity.

In England, the football media is far more than just the sports pages. It's a multi-headed avaricious beast looking to devour all in its path.

Max Clifford, Britain's most famous public relations expert, summed up what Capello can expect.

In a relatively tongue-in-cheek open letter in Monday's Times newspaper, Clifford writes: "Dear Fabio, you are going into a war zone. You have no idea how your life is about to change. Everything you have ever done in your life is going to be in the newspapers.

"The spotlight is going to be intense and unbearable. Do you still want the job. Are you sure?"

Clifford also advises him not to learn English, so he retains an air of mystery, to watch his back, to keep a low profile and to call (former England coach) Sven and take him out to lunch because he can tell you what to look out for.

"On second thoughts, talk to him on the phone. You would not want pictures of you having lunch with Sven appearing in the papers."

Different pundits will analyse every tactical move Capello makes in almost every minute of every match.

He may well ignore all of them, and as he himself famously said of his critics many years ago: "Why should I waste my time listening to people who are clearly less intelligent than me?"

Capello comes to the job having won seven domestic league titles in Italy and Spain and the Champions League. He played 32 times for Italy and at 61 has the authority, gravitas and experience to deal with all the sniping that might come his way.

But that won't stop the media interest in areas of his life that have nothing to do with whether he sends England out to play in a 4-4-2 formation, a 3-5-1, 4-1-4-1 or even 0-0-11.

In fact, the intrusion started even before he took the job.

Photos of him wearing a tutu at a fancy dress party and balancing a jug on his head appeared last week. But this is mild stuff to what he can expect if things begin to go wrong.

All of his immediate predecessors, starting with Bobby Robson back in the 1980s, have been vilified and humiliated in the media.

Robson's private life was dissected like no England manager's had been before. Graham Taylor (1990-93) was portrayed as a turnip after his failures at Euro 92 and not qualifying for the World Cup in 1994.

Terry Venables (1994-96) had an excellent relationship, in the main, with the football press, but succumbed because of pressures from outside interests. His successor Glenn Hoddle (1996-99) went after an interview in The Times in which he made controversial remarks about the disabled.

Kevin Keegan (1999-2000) was largely spared excessive vitriol -- that was reserved for Sven-Goran Eriksson (2001-06).

Despite the Swede guiding England to the later stages of two World Cups and Euro 2004, the coverage of Eriksson's personal life far outweighed that of his professional life.

He was ultimately caught in the infamous "Fake Sheikh" sting when a tabloid paper set up him up with a reporter posing as a rich Arab investor. He left the England job six months later after last year's World Cup in Germany.

Steve McClaren was ridiculed in the press almost from his first day in office for his perceived corporate speak and his toothy grin, but the dagger through his heart came the day after England were eliminated from Euro 2008 last month.

He was photographed standing at Wembley Stadium sheltering from the rain under an umbrella on the night of the defeat to Croatia that saw England go out of the competition.

"Wally with a Brolly" opined the headline writer in the Daily Mail. He was gone within hours.