The record will show that Fabio Capello, with a win percentage of 66.7%, is one of England's most successful managers ever. For anyone who has followed the national side over the last four years, those figures serve to mask what has been a reign characterised by mismanagement, disappointment and controversy.
I'm glad he's gone. Taking the post in early 2008, Capello took England through that all too familiar parabola of expectation that precedes any major tournament; losing only one game in the qualification group for the 2010 World Cup, topping the scoring charts for the UEFA zone and with Wayne Rooney looking utterly unplayable, we started to believe. But there were always the doubts; most of the teams that 'Wazza' et al were tonking weren't exactly world-beaters, we couldn't be sure that the ingrained overwhelming fear of success that seems to plague our nation's footballers had been consigned to the past, and Emile Heskey was back in the squad.
Then the doubts started to transform into serious concerns, before manifesting themselves as a bona-fide footballing car-crash. First came the revelations that John Terry had been having an affair with the girlfriend of national and club teammate Wayne Bridge; the ensuing tabloid storm forcing the Italian's hand in stripping the Chelsea centre-back of the captaincy. Then came Terry's successor as captain, Rio Ferdinand, being injured in a training session, leading to him being ruled out of the World Cup. And Emile Heskey was STILL in the squad.
It's still too painful to talk about what happened in South Africa at length. As a nation, we're still somewhat traumatised. Rob Green fumbling a shot into his own goal in the opening match against the USA. Frank Lampard's disallowed goal against Germany. Emile Heskey being brought on as a last-ditch substitute when three goals were needed in that last 16 tie against Germany. England were unceremoniously dumped out, and with a collective shrug of the shoulders, we accepted that out expectations, once again, had been unfounded.
The Euro 2012 campaign started the same process again, now crushingly inevitable in its cyclical nature; with the emergence of the likes of Phil Jones and Jack Wilshere, and the growing prowess of Darren Bent at international level, perhaps, just perhaps, Fabio could find redemption and lead England to success in Poland and Ukraine before he stepped down with the expiration of his contract. Now England need to find a new man to lead the team out in June.
Capello was never the right fit. Post-McClaren, England needed a manager with passion. Instead they got one whose professorial attitude and statuesque manner on the touchline made him seem a million miles away from his players and fans. They needed a manager with the balls to shake things up. Instead they got one who almost religiously adhered to 4-4-2, and showed obstinacy when calls were made to give young players the chance to shine in crucial games. He was never the right fit, and not just because he wasn't English. He, if anything, was far too 'English', reinforcing the stagnancy that has plagued the side for the best part of two decades.
It would have been impossible for him to stay. The FA made the right call in stripping John Terry of the captain's armband; it would have been impossible for him to lead out the side at a major championship with the dark cloud of a racism trial hanging over his head, engulfing and overshadowing the entire team. The necessary side-product of that decision was the alienation and angering of Fabio Capello; he was unsurprisingly furious at the FA's decision to unilaterally remove Terry from the captaincy, but the national interest in ensuring that some semblance of integrity is maintained superseded the usual decision making hierarchies. Now he's gone. And England need a new manager, and fast.
Harry Redknapp, with his tax evasion trial behind him, seems the natural choice. Indeed, it seems hard to imagine anyone else being Capello's long-term successor. More important than the name of the manager though, is their character. A monumental task lies ahead; firstly, a new captain needs to be appointed, difficult given that the side contains few players whoa re guaranteed to start. Second, a replacement strategy must be generated to deal with the fact that Wayne Rooney will be banned for the first two games at Euros. And finally, the English mentality that I spoke about, the fear of winning, the mechanistic rise and fall of expectations and the obstinacy to change, needs to be consigned to history.
The parabola needs to be changed into an ever-increasing upward curve.
England are in possession of excellent young players, and the end of John Terry's period as captain gives a chance for a new start. So Harry Redknapp, I hereby issue you a challenge; you've got three years. Then I want another star to be added to the England shirt, and another World Cup trophy in Wembley Stadium. It can be done. Emile Heskey's even retired from international football. Clock's ticking 'Arry...