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“Not really our fault, mate,” you’ll hear players say. “Given the mess caused by Capello’s departure, what did you expect?”

A change of manager is not overnight going to cure the underlying reasons why England has failed to win a major trophy since the 1966 World Cup, not least of which is the physicality of English soccer and its lack of a winter break that together leave players drained and often broken for major international tournaments.

English media, which largely welcomed Capello’s appointment on Dec. 14, 2007, started to turn against him after England’s poor World Cup in 2010 punctured his winning aura. Much was made of how players supposedly chafed under his strict regime and bored of their Playstations and DVDs while locked away in Camp Capello in South Africa.

But shouldn’t the honor of playing for England keep them motivated? Why is that too much to ask? The tendency of England players to buckle under, not shoulder, the weight of the England shirt predates Capello and will continue as one of soccer’s riddles after he is gone.

That Capello was Italian was cool when he took over, replacing Steve McClaren who was uncool because he was English. Just as exotic meringue Pavlovas once seduced bland English palates, England at the start of the Capello era was hungering to go continental if that would bring success. Capello’s broken English was deemed less important than his trophy-studded resume. The hope seemed to be that players would learn from Capello simply by osmosis.

Now the clamor is for the soccer equivalent of eel pie and ale _ Tottenham coach and London lad Harry Redknapp. As luck would have it, a jury acquitted Redknapp of tax evasion charges just hours before Capello resigned, clearing him for the England job should he and the FA so desire.

“We need an English manager now,” tweeted Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand, Anton’s older brother. “We don’t need anything else lost in translation.”

Englishness “should run right through the squad from players to tea lady,” tweeted his teammate, striker Michael Owen.

Ah, dear England.

Still insular.

Still stuck in the limbo between eternal hope and near-certain disappointment at the next soccer rendezvous.

But still doing the right thing.


John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jleicester(at) or follow him at