A very astute observation.
“I believe that English people and footballers have a will to win and a love for their country. It’s just a question of getting it out of them. I really hope to be the man who can do that.”
There are very interesting and obvious parallels between England and Russia, ironically the country that beat them out to a spot to Euro 2008. Guus Hiddink saw the same self defeating mechanism at work with the Russians whose national team always faltered when on the verge of success. A culmination played out when Russian fans went on the rampage after their team was beaten by Japan in the 2002 World Cup ending their run. Their failure to advance led to a widespread mood of despondency with fans staying away from national fixtures. They turned to supporting their local club. With private ownership, increased TV revenues, and a booming economy, playing for the Russian league become attractive to a number of international stars who in turn attracted an ever increasing domestic audience. Supporting CSKA Moscow and Lokomotiv was infinitely preferable in the new economy. The result was that the national game was in the doldrums with players going through the motions of playing matches.
When he became Russia’s manager Guus Hiddink first order of business was to get the national squad believing that they could win and bring back the fans. In this he was helped by Roman Abramovich, the owner of CSKA Moscow and the man underwriting Russian soccer.
There are similar parallels to English fans who are much more heavily invested in seeing their clubs win rather than in some sort of abstract expression of nationalism. There are no obvious dividends when a national team wins other than a warm feeling and a lump in the throat. A club on the other hand gets more TV revenue, better players, a new stadium, and a family day. It has led to the most financially successful league. But other countries have learned to balance this better. A lot of it has to do with England not winning a major title since 1966, whereas Italy, Germany, and France have had regular success, with fans suspending their club allegiance when their national team is on display. Nothing succeeds like success.
Capello is on the right track with the essential trope of self belief and nationalism. His journey is much more complex than Guus Hiddink’s though, whose managing has been simplified by the more unitary nature of Russia’s soccer where success is fueled by private investment. In the English league these relationships have been traditionally more inimical and fragmented with many competing interests. He has to make friends with the PFA whose control over players can be quite suffocating. He also has to allow for English representation in his coaching staff otherwise it does in its present form sound like a tightly contained cabal and a future cudgel to be used for those who believe his hiring went against English tradition.
Here is some sage advice for Capello from a former England manager:
“To be England manager you must win every game, not do anything in your private life and hopefully not earn too much money” – Sven-Goran Eriksson offers some advice to Fabio Capello
Svennie has a long memory. Stay away from TV announcers, eat your Weetabix, live in Tooting, win against Croatia, and you will be right as rain, Fabio.
A very astute observation.