Seeing as France had an equally shabby time of it as England in the World Cup, without being too optimistic, I thought England might actually be in with a chance on Wednesday night. How wrong I was. I don’t need to tell you that England took a spanking at Wembley. If you didn’t see the match, you’ll have seen the verdict plastered all over the tabloids ever since.

And boy are the tabloids out for blood: Capello’s, the FA’s, the player’s, the fan’s. Ever since the match the media lynch mob has been out in full force. The response has been characteristically sharp, impartial and rife with the rapier wit we’ve come to expect:

If Fabio Capello knows what it means, 2010 has been an annus horribilis.”

I can only imagine that the journalist here is trying to poke fun at Capello’s fairly limited English. Unfortunately, he’s failed to realize that ‘annus horribilis’ isn’t English, it’s Latin. Perhaps he’s also forgotten that Capello’s an Italian, and that the Italian language is the closest derivative of Latin on the planet. Seeing as the journalist in question couldn’t even figure out what language he was dealing with and that the majority of the readership would probably interpret ‘annus horribilis’ as being closer to posteriors than periods of time, I’m going to hedge my bets with Capello on this one.

The Sun, ever the diplomats, ran a similar article entitled “Capello is a dead man walking.” But the winner has to be The Mirror, who really stepped it up a gear when they coupled borderline xenophobia with basic illiteracy – and no, this isn’t a typo:

“Three years Fabio Capello has been in the job and he still can’t speak proper England.”


But this witch hunt approach to getting at the heart of England’s problems isn’t particularly effective. And for some of the tabloids that are at it, it’s actually pretty hypocritical. The single most damaging element to England’s national performance isn’t Capello, it’s the high-pressure, high-pay culture of the Premier League. One of the primary financiers of the Premier League is BSkyB, owned by News Corporation, who also owns the Sun, the News of the world and the Times. All of whom are lampooning Capello, whilst making little or no mention of the Premiership’s negative impact on the team. Funny that…

Bill Mann from the Daily Post comments:

Last year the satellite broadcaster [Sky] paid the Premier League £1.62 billion for the right to screen 115 live matches per season from 2010 to 2013. That’s enough to dictate on what days and at what times matches are played and more than enough to allow the clubs to tempt scores of foreign players whose presence hinders the development of young, home-grown talent.”

Obviously these tabloids know better than to bite the hand that feeds. But in heaping the blame on Capello – who is now having to tempt world class players and barter with their coaches to get them to play – they’re distorting the matter at hand. The fact is, Capello isn’t an awful leader, he’s just had his leadership completely undermined by the heavily incentivized culture of the Premiership. In fact, the incentive to perform seems to have become more important than the need to perform. Capello’s ‘talent’ is running away from him and their dissent is being fuelled by a damaging, materialistic work culture that values remuneration over less tangible rewards, like winning. Or national pride, for that matter.

On an international level, English football is in the throes of a serious leadership crisis. Their ‘talent’ is running amuck. If Capello tries to rein them in he risks alienating them further and getting on the wrong side of their premiership coaches. But if he lets this power shift continue, our national team may never recover. Something needs to be done, but as of yet, no one has stepped up to the task. Whatever course of action the management decide to take, the management training industry should really take note. Rarely are high-risk managerial decisions carried out on such a public level. And rarely do they carry such massive consequences.