Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Fabio Reign Has Taken Us out of Dark Ages under the Brolly Wally; Fab's Thumbs Up: Capello Has Transformed England's Fortunes after Just a Year in Charge

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Fabio Reign Has Taken Us out of Dark Ages under the Brolly Wally; Fab's Thumbs Up: Capello Has Transformed England's Fortunes after Just a Year in Charge

Article excerpt

Byline: MATTHEW NORMAN

FOOTBALL years being a little like dog years squared, it feels like a lifetime ago that we were treated to the most tragicomic vista in the history of the English international team.

Looking for all the world like a beetroot-faced drag act still determined to give us his Mary Poppins despite having left his outfit at home, Steve McClaren promenaded along his technical area, brolly raised, while the fruits of his sublime incompetence blossomed on the turf.

In fact, it is of course merely 12 months since that unforgettable night, and not an iota of doubt survives that it was England's salvation.

Had England drawn that match and qualified for Euro 2008, the facade of success would have disguised McClaren's abundant idiocy sufficiently to preserve him in his post.

He would now be shepherding the side either to elimination from the next World Cup or at best an appearance of Erikssonian bemusement in South Africa. Instead, thanks to Scott Carson's catastrophic efforts in goal and Darren Bent's wretched late miss both of which were echoed, with neat symmetry, in Berlin on Wednesday the temptation to anticipate the summer of 2010 with genuine relish becomes ever more difficult to resist.

The friendly against Germany & but no, that's too oxymoronic even for me.

This week's non-competitive fixture in the Fatherland was, to my mind, the high point of Fabio Capello's magnificent first year in charge. Given the 4-1 demolition of Croatia, this may strike you as nonsense. Yet there was never much doubt that the first choice XI, that "golden generation", had more than enough talent, if properly organised, to trouble decent opposition, and even destroy it on the break when all the cards fell as perfectly as they did in Zagreb.

What even the insanely optimistic never dared imagine is that there might be sufficient depth to the squad to give England, invariably cursed by pre- and mid-tournament injuries as we are, a serious chance of progressing beyond the usual quarter finals. …

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