You can't teach an old dog... The story of Fabio Capello's transformation

For all the recent talk of the transformation of Fabio Capello, I expected so much more from him. From everything I've read recently, Fabio is not the same man as he was in 2010. Taking his team to the World Cup he made all the wrong decisions. His handling of the captain's armband (passed to Ferdinand in name but allowing Terry to control in reality), his desperate attempts to bring back Paul Scholes at the last minute with the addition of Jamie Carragher, the insistence on Rob Green and David James over Joe Hart. Everything was off. The wrong squad, the wrong team, the wrong attitude. But that's all changed. Since that World Cup has ended there has been a metamorphosis. He's replaced age with youth, he's dropped his stiff disciplinarian act, an act guaranteed to anger multi millionaire playboys who do not expect to be told they can't do this or that. Its been a shocker because at his age, and in what will likely be his last footballing role before retirement, Capello was expected to use the same old tricks and just bide his time, pick up his wages and hope for a Euro 2012 quarterfinal.



But his handling of the Wayne Rooney incident shows me that he's all talk, he still has no idea how to deal with his players, he has zero grasp of what needs to be done to take a disjointed England team and unify them. In a recent article on this site, a columnist talks about how footballers are still people, and that idea can be hard to understand some time. With their inflated wages and constant media exposure we almost set them away as a different species, thats why we feel no remorse when screaming whatever we want at them when they're at work. But they are people, and a couple of days before a match, Wayne Rooney's father was arrested for match fixing. It's bad enough that his father was arrested, but arrested for something thats linked to his job. Everyone who heard the story was shocked and I think somewhere in every mind no matter how deep, we wondered if Wayne himself could be involved. Those massive odds on him staying at United after he refused to sign a contract, dropping suddenly, just in time for his signature. Someone had to know more. And so Wayne couldn't have had a right mind last week. His family hadn't just been arrested, but millions of people who are supposed to support him were bound to have a hint of doubt creep into their minds. It's the kind of thing any human being would struggle with, footballer or not.


So the fact is, Rooney shouldn't have played from the beginning of that game. He should have been allowed home, back to Manchester where Sir Alex could take control and soothe Rooney's worries for the next week and a half. No one would have blamed him. But what about the crucial game against Montenegro, you ask? Well if England can't beat Montenegro without Rooney then what chance do they have at the Euro's anyway. Defoe, Welbeck, Sturridge are all in great form. Carroll, Zamora are big strong impact players, Crouch and Bent are always good for a goal or two. The team talk would have been easy, Capello telling his players to show their support for a colleague by going out and getting the job done for him, to secure a place in the Euros that Wayne can begin to think of instead of the difficulties he has at the moment.



But Capello did play him, and England ran into a two goal lead. After a half an hour, England's qualification was secured and it was job done, so take off Rooney, bring on another player and allow the team to do their job and close out the game. But no, Capello did the opposite, Bent was removed from the match and Rooney was left alone up front. Ask any United fan how Rooney acts when he is isolated up front? England fans should know too. But Capello doesn't know that, he gets paid however many millions a year and yet he left an emotionally fragile Rooney up front on his own while England conspired to allow Montenegro back into the game (the formation and tactics were all wrong too). This is not an excuse for Rooney. He should be a professional, he should have learned by now that he cannot allow emotion to guide him. But when you have a player who is known to act like this, you treat him carefully, especially when he has the talent of Wayne. Capello still hasn't a clue how to do that.


So thats two strikes against the Italian, but the coup de grace was still to come. With Rooney off, England just scraped through, England fans are known to scapegoat, think Beckham or Rooney himself in the past and there are countless others. So Capello had a simple job, back his man, take the hit for him. If Capello had come out and said he shouldn't have started Rooney because of the family problems, the pressure would have transferred to him, instead he talks about how Rooney was silly, how Rooney may not have a first 11 spot in the Euros, how he won't even play in the friendlies... Its like the perfect "How to" guide of how not to deal with the situation. He's singled him out, loaded the blame on him and now if England fail in the Euros, whose fault will it be? Wayne Rooney. Imagine the stress and pressure that will add to the lad going into the tournament, imagine now a bad game (a quarter final perhaps) where Capello isolates him again and Rooney is primed for another explosion. It's a self fulfilling prophecy.

They tell me that Fabio is a changed man, ready to give it one more roll of the dice to make a success of this England job but the fact is the man still doesn't have a clue. For such a great manager he has absolutely no idea how to man manage these players, not an iota of a plan to unify the locker room. And now he has taken their star player and made him the black sheep. With over seven months to go till the Euros kick off, he's already laid the foundations for England's failure.  


If you like what you read follow me on Twitter, if you don't, well follow me anyway.!/David_TPL


And of course comment away. Has Capello handled it badly or does Rooney deserve what he gets for his actions? Who should start the games Rooney will miss and is the spot guaranteed his when his ban is over?

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Comment by Tom O'Dowd on October 13, 2011 at 15:45
To be honest, with some of the things I've heard footballers say, you could be copyrighted for that short story...
Comment by WorldClass on October 13, 2011 at 15:41
lol tom... just a bit of fun...  
Comment by Tom O'Dowd on October 13, 2011 at 15:02

No I'm not saying they're alone in the world, left to survive, I'm basically saying they don't have the same mentality/brains/common sense to deal with these situations. I'm sure for some it's easier than others but, as I said, Rooney barely went to school, so what has he, or most of them, actually learned in their lives? A normal life throws things at you from an early age, like the pressure of exams or work or whatever you're involved in, abuse from others, problematic situations which you have to counteract yourself, these lads have all these people protecting them, or trying to, from everyone on the outside world and solving all the problems that get in their way. What do kids learn when they're not allowed explore? Nothing.

Rooney is stupid, we all know this, and all the help in the world woudnt make much of a difference to his mentality, where as a doctor, with an 8-10 year degree, would, surely, have the greater brains/will power than some uneducated, spoilt, stupified footballer.

As your Yuri Gellar piece showed, we're a long way away from it.

Comment by WorldClass on October 13, 2011 at 14:47

Tom are you suggesting professional footballer are not helped with the Celeb factor in theirs lives the the clubs? I know for a fact Villa have a psychiatrist who speaks to our juniors and help them through difficult times or adjustments in their life. I remember Luke Moore talking about it when SAF put in a bid for the then 16 year old, he had a mass of media attention and he thanked the Dr who had been coaching him for helping him keep focus whilst he had all the attention on him. Yes I understand your point, but these lads have untold wealth and then clubs bend over backwards to help them, perhaps the mental side of the game is the next area that great strides will be made? Yuri Geller using the power of his mind to give team talks to the Liverpool team ... I can see it now...


Yuri - "Here is a Spoon Steven I want you to bend it with your mind"


Gerrard - "What Spoon?"


Yuri - "The Spoon I just gave you, never mind here's another, now concentrate and bend it with your mind"


Gerrard - "Bend what with my mind"


Yuri - "The Spoon I gave you.... never mind, close your eye and listen to this calming music, focus and visualise what you're going to do on the pitch"


Gerrard <looking confused> - "Can I have this CD on?"


Yuri - "No this is a special music to focus you mind"


Gerrard - "Yeah but I want this song on"


Yuri - "No... owe.. what you doing.... no don't..."


Stevens fists start flying, Agger breaks his leg trying to serparate him as Kenny shout something no one understands... eventually Carragher escorts Gerrard out of the room with Steve Clark wondering why Gerrard brought two silver spoons to the game?




Anyway maybe that why we tend to produce well balanced players?

Comment by Tom O'Dowd on October 13, 2011 at 14:27

Personally, I would have started Wayne against Montenegro, basically because he's the best player, no matter what state he's in. As the game went on I would have taken him off though, just to be safe. Maybe Capello moved too late? Or maybe he wanted 90 minutes out of him to let him forget about any personal problems? That wouldn't be my issue with Capello. I think his comments afterwards were those of a man frustrated and coming to the end of his tether. His comments should have been that what Rooney did was stupid and he is sorry he let his team and country down, full stop. There was no need for any talk of future matches and not picking him, that was simply idiotic. Wenger, Ferguson or any other top manager would never be so stupid to dent his own player like that, especially not his star one.

What Rooney did was stupid and he deserves a few games for it, what Capello did was idiotic and he deserves to be criticised for it. All in all, this is not a situation England need going into the Championships next June, but I'm sure the press will find a way of bringing it all back up, ten-fold.

PS, Doctors/Surgeons go through years of psychology classes to deal with stresses of work so best leave them out of the equation considering Rooney's been playing Premiership football since 16 and, I presume, doesnt have a Degree/Qualification to his name. He's an angry young man that does get a lot more shit than most and struggles to handle it, but up until last friday was actually doing quite well.

Comment by WorldClass on October 13, 2011 at 14:22

I also mentioned the "fustration" factor with Rooney... he wants to be the hub of eerything, he wants the ball all the time, its commendable and shows brilliant confidence... however it can't always go through him and the fustration factor kicks in....


re compassion leave... isn't that something the work requests.... it's not enforced on him, if SAF picks him ad Rooney says "I'm not up to it boss" thats different, but Rooney wants to play. Playing maybe a helpful distraction to everything going on off the pitch. I genuinely think you are complicating the lad. He is a simpleton (a football genius, but a simpleton) and quite often I think you'll find the correct answer is the simplest with Rooney... it's not his dad, his granny lover his bald head... it's his self control.... his disciplin... his Profesionality.


By all accounts he was mollycoddled at Everton and allowed to get away with all sorts, I shall have to speak to my uncle but there are a few stories of him doing this sort of stuff as a kid and never getting repremanded by the club for doing it. TBH I think this the partly the problem because it wasn't knocked out/in to him at an early age...  but then he never had the grounding players like Giggs and Scholes did with their club focus's and digs with miss cranagan who expected them to be in at 10 everynight... not the Ferrari and 10 bedroom house by the time he's 18....


I don't think you can blame Capello or SAF for Rooneys behaviour on the pitch, as I don't think you can blame his personal life, he is a professional footballer and shouldn't be doing these sort of things... what happens next time he kicks out at someone... because it will happen... will it be because his cat was ran over?

Comment by David O'Loughlin on October 13, 2011 at 14:00

@WorldClass, I don't understand your reference to learning to handle not winning, England were winning at the time, qualifying for the Euros. This isn't like England were getting beaten and Rooney lashed out in anger over that. He lashed out due to other things, my opinion is that it was due to a mixture of what happened, and how it was dealt with plus isolating him up front (something that shouldn't be an issue).


Also you never answered in regard to compassionate leave, something every worker is entitled to (i'm not sure on the army or gardaí etc). And yes the problem is in the player, I agree. But if you're a good manager you deal with players, if Rooney, a player known to react badly to personal problems (rightly or wrongly) has a personal problem, you don't just persist and play him anyway, you deal with it properly, then when something goes wrong, you don't hang him out to dry like Capello did.




Rooney shouldn't have played because he was not in the right frame of mind to play (my opinion). Vidic's problem is football related, not personal.


Great debate lads, I do see some of your points, but i'm a bit of a stubborn b******, and I do think the whole Rooney situation was handled terribly. Thanks to Annie for reopening this can of worms with the Liverpool question by the way!

Comment by thecityisred on October 13, 2011 at 13:48

No, your entire argument here is that he shouldn't have played through danger of being sent off, I'm showing you the other side of the coin. Neither are valid arguments, that if he doesn't play United lose or that if he does play he's likely to get into trouble.


Vidic had a shocking penalty this week and he's been all over the Serbian press regarding his on/off retirement - receiving blame for Serbia's exit and criticism that he may be walking away. Given his ability to get a red card against Liverpool then should he be risked?


We're never going to agree on this.

Comment by David O'Loughlin on October 13, 2011 at 13:44

You seemed to be suggesting that if he doesn't play we'll lose. I'm just offering the other side of the coin that if he played we could just as easily lose and/or he could be sent off creating just as much media storm. Better to protect him like we did at Everton.


As I said in the article, I think anyone would struggle to do their job for a few days if they heard their father was arrested, even worse he was arrested for match fixing allegations, something linked to Rooney's job. I think its likely that the sending off was a mix of everything, frustration and having a lot on his mind. You can disagree, this is all opinion of course!

Comment by WorldClass on October 13, 2011 at 13:40

You seem certain Rooney is going to get sent off... the problem is within the player, not within his circumstance.


The comparison was between the pressures faced not the skill level. People talk about the pressure of being a footballer and how that pressure combined with personal strife has detremental affects... my point about Doctors i that this is not so... Professionality, is all comes back to professionality... Fustration and Passion does not excuse idiocy. These reason Rooney got sent off was not because of his dad, it was because he was playing for England and we play like a pack of individuals, it has been our problem since 1990 and so far not much evidence to the contrary... Rooney doesn't like losing which is great, but he has to learn to accept that is does happen... which pretty much outlines 80% of the kids that have come out of school since Labour decided that no one should be a loser... unfortunately part of becoming a balanced individual is learning to deal with success as well as abject failure and keeping your head. I hate losing but am very unlikey to kick out at someone because I'm fustrated. Win some, Lose Some, You never stop striving to imporve.


Stop trying to protect young Wayne from the World, he should have grown out of all this on the pitch by now, he is one of the best payed professional footballers in the world... its time he started acting like it.


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