Jim White

Another stick to beat Capello

Jim White

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Poor Fabio Capello. If he wanted to demonstrate his now total estrangement from English football's disgruntled opinion formers he could not have picked a better vehicle than the curt dismissal of our sentimental champion.

According to the tabloids, by suggesting that David Beckham was "a little bit too old" for future international selection, the Italian has committed national outrage, slurring the country's very good name. When he assaults a national treasure, he assaults us all.

It is not simply that the player should have been treated with more dignity. Or that his loyalty should have been rewarded with something a little more discreet than a casual throwaway aside during a television interview. Or that a suggestion that he might be awarded a last cap in an unimportant friendly was insultingly too little, too late.

No, the suggestion in all the papers this morning is that by removing Beckham so curtly, Capello has shown himself once more to be completely unsuited to the task of managing the national team. His man-management is now regarded as utterly beyond redemption.

A bit of perspective should perhaps be applied here. About Beckham, Capello was right in his assessment. The truth is, the player has been "a little too old" for international duty for some time now. Probably since 2006, when Steve McClaren first attempted to call time on his efforts.

His cameo performances since then, as he has steadily climbed the table of the most capped, heading ever closer to Peter Shilton's once apparently impregnable record of 125, have not really contributed anything to the cause.

He has looked what he is: a beautiful technician, with a wonderful array of accurate set pieces, but not much more. He hasn't beaten an opponent with a dribble since 2002. His tackling has always been more of a rumour. An argument could just about be made for his inclusion as a squad player on the grounds of the contribution he might make in the dressing room and the edge he might give in the final 10 minutes with a corner or two. Which is roughly how Capello used him over the last couple of years. But basically, as a serious contender, he was finished long ago.

So what is Capello supposed to have done? A less public execution might have been more expedient. Of course there is no doubt his public relations could have done with a brush up (as could his English - he probably didn't mean to sound as brutal as he did).

But the truth is, just as every political career is said to end in failure, so every international football career ends in telephone silence. There is no tradition of ceremonial farewells. One day, even the greatest simply don't get the call any more. The bus - in Alex Ferguson's phrase - moves on.

The truth is, Beckham himself is aware of this. Despite his rather appealing determination to make himself available for international call up as long as there is breath in his lungs, a loyalty which contrasts with the line of those announcing their retirement from England, he knows he has little to offer these days beyond a photo opportunity. Those are the facts.

No, the whole rolling maul of derision and hysteria is not about the correctness or otherwise of the manager's assessment of the player. It is entirely about Capello. It is another stick to beat the guy with. Another opportunity to whip up frenzy about his decision making.

When a passing remark in a television interview lands him in a hurricane of manufactured outrage, it is yet further evidence that his esteem is now fatally wounded in the wider public estimation.

Once he could do no wrong as England manager. Now he can do no right. It is difficult to know where he goes from here. But, for his own sake, somewhere other than Wembley might be a start.

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