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Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010

PREMIER REPORT

Despite new contract, many down on Capello


LONDON — When you earn £6 million a year for managing a football club, you should have a smile on your face and a spring in your step.

Christopher Davies

As Fabio Capello prepared England for Friday night's Euro 2012 qualifier against Bulgaria he gave the impression of someone who would love to be sacked.

The Italian is not going to walk away from his two-year contract, but as just about everything around Capello is shrouded by negativity it is hard to believe he has much job satisfaction even at £6 million a year.

When The Sun depicts you as a donkey on the back page, when critics round on you for your poor grasp of English after 2 1/2 years in charge, when "sources" claim the players have lost respect for you, and when your team returns from a woeful World Cup as world-class underachievers, it is impossible to believe Capello jumps out of bed each morning raring to go.

A year ago as Capello was leading England to World Cup qualification with a perfect record, criticism was minimal, his inability to express himself in the language of his adopted country largely overlooked.

Now most observers, fans and even some within the Football Association would like to see Capello replaced.

The problem is, the list of viable candidates could be written on a grain of sand with a felt tip pen.

The F.A. has said Capello's successor will be English, which is exactly how it should be, but while Brazil appoints Brazilians, Germany appoints Germans, Spain appoints Spaniards and Argentina appoints Argentines, England appoints a Swede and then an Italian.

Harry Redknapp ticks most boxes but there seems to be doubts within the F.A. about the Tottenham manager.

Liverpool's Roy Hodgson and Sam Allardyce are other candidates, and Redknapp spoke for the nation when he said: 'We should be able to produce someone who can manage the England football team and let's be honest, they can't do any worse than what they (Sven-Goran Eriksson and Capello) have done."

Even victory over Bulgaria will not change the perception of Capello as a manager who is stubborn, cold, distant and who has found the step from being a hugely successful club manager to the international stage bigger than he ever imagined.

His dictatorial style was no major problem when the squad was together for a few days, but the five weeks in South Africa underlined that the players do not react positively to a boot camp existence over a period of time.

Morale was low, smiles were rare, and while the World Cup is serious business it can still be fun.

Capello would no doubt be relieved to be paid up, the F.A. cannot afford the £12 million in compensation, and there are no obvious candidates to take over.

Apart from that everything is fine.

* * * * *

THE SPORTS pages in England have been dominated by cricket this week with allegations that three Pakistan players were allegedly involved in a betting no-ball scandal during the last test against England.

Any sport relies on the basis that all participants are giving 100 percent at all times, but inevitably money can corrupt some.

Football at the highest level is thankfully clean, but further down the scale dark forces are at work.

During the World Youth Championship in Malaysia in 1997 I found myself in the company of one of Mr. Big's "agents" — Mr. Big being the man who can "arrange things" with certain footballers.

Unaware of my job, he told me how the clandestine operations are carried out. They target young players from Third World countries and approach them with perhaps $5,000, "which our client has asked me to give you because he is keen for your team to win."

The kid can't believe his luck at an unexpected win bonus. The whole process is videotaped.

A few years later when the player is with his country at the World Cup finals he is approached again. This time the "client" wants his team to lose and points out that the earlier process was captured on film.

Three or four other players, also filmed, were given the same subsequent offer which they find impossible to refuse.

I obviously cannot name names, but if you go back through World Cup records you will notice some unusual scorelines in the final group matches.

While hardly match-fixing, I know of one former Premiership team, in partnership with a Far East betting syndicate, which always conceded the first throw-in if it kicked off.

The ball was tapped to a player who "accidentally" over-hit his pass out to the wing ensuring the opposition had the first throw-in, making certain people a fistful of dollars.

A well-known manager once changed the penalty-taker in the dressing room before the game, his spurious theory being that the style of the usual taker — one of the most reliable in England — was known.

The job was given to a midfielder with a poor goal-scoring record and who was 25-1 to score the first goal. It was still a huge gamble by the manager, but it paid off and he was £12,500 better off.

Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for theLondon Daily Telegraph.


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