Total control
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Total control

The English manager Capello has kept an open mind in formulating ‘his’ squad and combined it with an iron will.

sports Updated: May 29, 2010 22:55 IST

Fabio Capello has an air of terrifying decisiveness. On one of his abundant good days, there is a sense of fate as much as judgment in his choices. The reinstatement of Emile Heskey in the team was considered peculiar until the crowd saw what the manager had already envisaged: the player’s catalytic effect on Rooney.

All the same, that forceful decision-making is just one part of Capello's character. He tinkers and compromises as someone in his post ought to do. As a manager Capello has won the European Cup once and taken nine league titles in Italy and Spain, even if one of the Serie A honours was struck from the record because of the calciopoli scandals.

Nonetheless, he will have been through days of doubt. The Italian's record and the air of superiority have been potent enough to turn him into a symbol of excellence but, as with his peers, there are humdrum years on the CV. His managerial career began in 1991.

Capello knows what it is to scramble and scuffle for answers in awkward situations. The knack comes in handy with England. Any aura of predestination in his work with the national team is illusory. In more than two years in the job, he has been engaged in an open-minded search. The draconian part of Capello's outlook occupies too much of our attention. It is natural to remember that Micah Richards, after seven consecutive starts under Steven McClaren, was overlooked by Capello.

There is another aspect to Capello that attracts less notice. He is always scouting and hoping for players who stand even some chance of helping the cause of the national team. The manager can appear to be urging individuals on against insuperable odds. Carlton Cole, for instance, was brought on, in five of the seven England games before the announcement of a provisional World Cup squad that did not include him.

Jermaine Jenas even started against Brazil in November before Capello had to bow to the fact that the midfielder had put himself out of contention with an unhappy season for Tottenham Hotspur. Rather than being dogmatic, Capello has kept an open mind and never envisages the squad as a snooty establishment for those who are already famous. His refusal to pander to the egos of star players is complemented by a readiness to look far and wide.

David Bentley has gone off course for the time being, but he began the match against Switzerland and was still in the England reckoning six months later. Capello wants to be persuaded. Gabriel Agbonlahor was in the starting line-up against Belarus in October, long after people had come to think there was too little variety to his work.

Capello's references to English players being among a marked minority in the Premier League accounts for the fact that he is closer to being a cheerleader than a hanging judge. But if the manager does identify someone of real use he is tenacious in backing him.

Gareth Barry has enjoyed longevity with England. His international debut was made under Kevin Keegan in 2000 and he has been picked by each successor in the England post. It is the Italian coach, though, who has transformed him. Twenty of Barry’s 36 caps have come since he was selected for his first tie. This loyalty is a strategy more than a soppy impulse. His assertion that they’d come good in SA was an effort to deliver a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Capello excels at being scary and we all like to visualise a rich footballer quaking as he is brought to book, but severity will never suffice. He did not pull off so many feats over such a period without inspiring people and drawing them together as a group. The game may be packed with shouters, but their results generally demonstrate that a larynx of steel is not enough.

First Published: May 29, 2010 22:53 IST