Quite why Fabio Capello believes he can get his magic to work for Russia when it so clearly did not for England is beyond me. I cannot see it. And it may not reflect well on me, but I am kind of hoping that it doesn’t work either.
How many reasons do we want? Firstly and most importantly, the raw material is worse. Capello is at his best working with the elite, the real cream who are top of their profession. He did not quite get that with England, did he?
But the quality at his disposal in Russia will be worse. OK, he might unearth some new gems, he might dig up buried treasure in the Urals or the Caucasus, or wherever, but how likely is that in a nation so vast where he has no grasp of the language? Which brings me on…
It was only after one victory in Euro 2012 that noise came from the England camp: we like Roy Hodgson, it helps to have a manager who speaks our language. Of course it does. But Capello did speak some English, he could at least rub along with the conversation, and he could pick up what he was hearing too. In Russia? No chance. He won’t even be able to read the words, let alone translate them.
And the nation is so vast. He won’t be able to get a grasp of it, he won’t have scouts in all corners. All he will have is the staple of the Russian league. And you wonder what the Russian players will make of it all. They have had two foreign coaches on the spin. Why should a third make any difference?
Surely appointing Capello would bring to the camp the wrong priorities. Russia has fallen so low that it failed to qualify for the last two World Cups. They host the 2018 World Cup so the priority should surely be to prepare a team for that.
They should use the next six years as one long build-up, blood loads of youngsters, work out which will make the grade and which won’t, refine them, blend the purest and strongest team for 2018 and block out Brazil 2014. Ignore 2014, it should not be a priority.
But Capello will not do that. He cannot afford a long term vision because his focus is on immediate success. He has no chance of staying through to 2018 if he cannot get Russia to qualify in their own right four years earlier.
So what I am saying, in short, is that he is the wrong man in the wrong job at the wrong time.
Which brings us back to England. Every two years, the nation goes through a kind of identity crisis when we ask “what is wrong with us?” and “why are we so shit?” and we look at talent development systems and academies and tactics and national football cultures and everything.
Normally we agree that actually the manager was pretty shit too but we all know - don’t we? - that the manager is really suffering because of all the above, the academies, the culture, the everything that he has inherited.
Indeed, where England serves a purpose is in that it demonstrates how hard it is. If it was easy to construct a model of the fully functioning, successful international football set-up, we would have done it ages ago.
And so would Russia. At least that is how I see it. Russia have less hope than England.
We who support failing teams like to construct a belief system around why they fail – so we can accept it and move on. Yet if Capello can make Russia into a better team than England, then my belief system has been blown to smithereens.
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