Early Doors

Better the devil you know for England

Early Doors

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Fabio Capello: Under scrutiny once again

Like Joey Barton, Early Doors likes to validate any argument by leaning heavily on borrowed quotes from noted authorities. That is why this morning, in reaction to suggestions that Fabio Capello could be ousted as England manager, it leans heavily on the seminal tract of Australian philosopher Kylie Minogue, and confidently declares: better the devil you know.

Because, according to widespread and frankly rather alarming reports on Wednesday, there appears to be a very real possibility that Capello could lose his job if what have inevitably been dubbed 'clear-the-air' talks with chairman David Bernstein at the FA's Wembley HQ are rather less productive than hoped.

Under the headline 'Capello on the brink' the Daily Mail takes up the story: "Fabio Capello will on Wednesday meet Football Association chairman David Bernstein for showdown talks that will determine if he remains England manager.

"Capello will be asked to explain why he committed a serious breach of FA protocol in his explosive Italian television interview on Sunday. The FA were completely unaware of the fact that Capello intended to criticise their board decision to strip John Terry of the captaincy over his forthcoming racist abuse trial.

"In a dramatic twist, Sportsmail understands the FA's director of development Sir Trevor Brooking has been asked to be at Wembley for what is considered a critical day of talks; one that will determine Capello's future".

A dramatic twist indeed, and the suggestions at this stage are that anything may be possible: a truce may be hammered out, or we could even be witnessing the final hours of Capello's reign.

Clearly his comments have caused real consternation within the FA, and understandably so.

His criticism of the move to strip John Terry of the England captaincy before a court had delivered its verdict on the Anton Ferdinand case questioned the FA's authority on a highly sensitive issue and undermined what was the correct decision by the governing body.

It exposed a deep chasm at the heart of the national team, put strain on a vital working relationship just months before a huge tournament and left the FA and England open to accusations of incompetence.

However, Early Doors has to wonder whether it was anywhere near constituting a sackable offence.

Clearly Capello's outburst was clumsy and ill-judged, but it was also an honest answer to an honest question, even if, on a salary of £6 million a year, you might hope the national manager could resist the opportunity to appear on Italian TV once in a while.

Questioning whether the disabled are paying for sins committed in a previous life is beyond the pale; questioning whether John Terry should still have the captain's armband - a debate that raged in the public arena - clearly is not.

Furthermore, once the initial surprise subsided, ED was left wondering just what exactly was quite so shocking in the comments. After all, the fact Capello did not agree with the decision was surely implicit in the FA's initial statement on Terry when it explicitly stated the manager had had no input whatsoever into the process.

ED is also sceptical whether, as has been suggested in some quarters, Capello's comments will ensure that whoever replaces Terry as captain will feel insecure as they will know only too well the manager doesn't want them wearing the armband. Surely the fact Terry was wearing it until last week is proof enough of that?

As such, suggestions that Capello could be dismissed seem, to ED at least, to be wildly far-fetched.

Expressing an opinion, even if it does contradict superiors and makes their life intolerably awkward, should never be considered grounds for dismissal. Is the FA really going to call in security and escort Capello out of Wembley with a cardboard box under his arm just because he went rogue live on Rai1?

The under-fire manager - who has seen some national newspapers openly call for his dismissal, what a surprise - won key support from Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson on Tuesday. Not that it came as a shock to see the epitome of the manager's manager, and a trade union man to boot, show admirable solidarity with his coaching colleague.

"I think what will happen in the next few days is there will have to be a coming together of the FA hierarchy and Fabio Capello because he's the team manager, he has the importance of that position," Ferguson said. "Without question the most important person at a football club is the manager."

Capello, then, should remain in place. If he has ever been deserving of the sack the right time to wield the axe would have been after the 2010 World Cup, such was the shambolic nature of a campaign characterised by awful man-management, tactical inadequacy and absolute lethargy.

Producing such a string of horrid performances in South Africa was a far more grievous crime than invoking free speech to express his support for a deposed captain and apparently taking offence that he had not been consulted on the issue.

July 2010 was the right time to sack Capello; to do so now would surely be lunacy, however difficult a position the FA may find itself in as a result of his comments.

After all, what is the alternative?

Some apparently intelligent people have suggested that Stuart Pearce could be asked to step in and lead the team at the Euros.

The same Stuart Pearce who has, to his credit, repeatedly said he is still someway short of being ready for the top job and, to his detriment, oversaw a lamentably poor campaign for the Under-21s in their own European Championship last summer.

To remove Capello and hand responsibility of the national side to Pearce would surely be akin to Blackburn's decision to sack Sam Allardyce and promote Steve Kean to a level way above his pay-grade. ED doesn't know about you, but it doesn't want to see a plane flying above Donetsk's Donbass Arena with 'Pearce Out' emblazoned on the banner streaming behind it.

Gareth Southgate and Sir Trevor Brooking have also been mentioned as possible caretakers, but although they are very effective administrators within the FA, are they ready to lead their country at a major finals? ED suspects not.

Capello may be locked in a loveless marriage, he may be at odds with his employers and bitterly angry at the loss of his captain, but he is still a manager who has one last challenge remaining before he retires and takes his leave. A manager who, if nothing else, is now driven by a sense of injustice.

Despite all the fevered talk about crisis meetings, Capello being on the brink and the FA being at war, surely the sensible solution now is to just grin and bear it, to lie back and think of England.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I was not depressed at all. I knew what I did and there is a kind of football law that says 'what happens on the pitch, stays on the pitch and that's the end of the story'. I know against Man United it is going to be tense because I'm going to face Evra. But I'm used to having fans whistle at me. I hope nothing unusual happens. I'll have to forget what happened for that moment. I do know Man United fans are going to try to make me feel uncomfortable. But I have to tell them — they are going to spur me on if they whistle at me." - Luis Suarez does his bit to defuse tensions ahead of his reunion with Patrice Evra at the weekend.

FOREIGN VIEW: Football and the Falkland Islands have been linked ever since Diego Maradona enjoyed his Hand of God moment, with the Argentina demi-god later admitting: "We blamed the English players for everything that happened, for all the suffering of the Argentine people ... Before the match we said football had nothing to do with the Malvinas war. But we knew a lot of Argentine kids died, shot down like little birds. This was revenge."

However, ahead of the 30th anniversary of the start of the war, and with Prince William being dispatched to the islands in what has been interpreted in Argentina as a provocative move as tensions between the countries escalate once again, the Argentinian league have conflated sport and politics once again by announcing its decision to rename the top flight the 'Crucero General Belgrano Primera Division' in honour of the cruiser that was sunk by the British navy, killing 323 people in the process.

COMING UP: Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain goes Under the Microscope following his fantastic performance for Arsenal against Blackburn at the weekend. Jim White also files his latest column, while at lunch we also publish the first of our three-part interview with former Chelsea and Portsmouth manager Avram Grant.

This evening, the African Cup of Nations semi-finals take place as Zambia take on Ghana and Ivory Coast tackle Mali, while Sunderland and Middlesbrough also do battle in their FA Cup replay for the right to host Arsenal in the fifth round.

In addition, Celtic visit Hearts in the SPL, Barcelona take on Valencia in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final and Catania and Roma play out the final 25 minutes of their abandoned Serie A tie. We are covering all the games live.

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