Its the week of Fabio Capellos debut as England manager. A
home friendly against Switzerland provides an undemanding test. Although it is, essentially, an exhibition match, the coach has been made aware of how important the press and, through it, the public, regard even the most insignificant game and the myriad of trivial issues which arise from it. Much of the talk is of the Capello Code of Behaviour as if this is some kind of revolutionary approach to managing people.
In essence, he demands respect for self and respect for others; the kind of common decency and professionalism which should be a commonplace. But it isnt or hasnt been. However, all England coaches from Ramsey onwards have expected the right attitudes from their charges, but some have applied a lighter touch than others, and have often been castigated for it.
One of the first things we learn of the Italian, is that he does not favour the chummy nickname or first name in addressing his England players. No iconic Stevie G. No JT. No Lamps or Becks. No. No Becks at all. It’s formal; its surnames. Gerrard. Ferdinand. Owen. Strictly business.
Immediately, Capello seems to be laying down a marker to his players. But why should the players expect Capello to be their best buddy? Especially those who are managed by Sir Alex Ferguson et al, who are infamously less than chummy with their charges. Capello has made it clear that we are here for one reason only; to create a winning ethos. We do not need your ‘personality’. We do not need your ‘brand image’. No. We only want you. The footballer. Disciplined. Dedicated. Focussed.
As is clear from his time in club management, Capello is not out to make friends. He didnt accept this job to build up his Facebook portfolio. He had made it clear some time ago that he regarded international management, especially of England, as his final and maybe, ultimate, challenge. And to this end he will be as dedicated as he has ever been. His mantra is Winning, and he knows how to win. He will reject anything in the process that does not serve that cause. He seems utterly single-minded; even ruthless.
So, everything needs to be geared towards that goal. Behaviour, attitudes, habits and tendencies either serve the God Of Winning. Or they don’t. That which doesnt goes. These are Capellos Rules. Agents. WAG’s. Cliques. Hangers-on. First names. Golf. Arrivederci!
The purpose of Capellos Rules will be to create a collective; a surrogate family imbued with an ethic which puts winning for the team above individual glory. If the collective will can be used to absorb personal aggrandisement, then it will become a powerful force which thrives on pressure. Though it may be complex and difficult to achieve, especially when he so rarely meets with the players, he will attempt to create a unity of purpose which excludes divisiveness, in which the question of Beckhams 100th cap or Owens past glories become less relevant than the team ethic.
Thus, eventually, we get to the point of team development where each player is playing for a cause greater than himself and will learn to accept that patterns of play and tactics are meant to serve the purpose rather than to inconvenience them, which, if embraced, lifts them beyond ordinary levels and gives them consistent energy and inspiration. It becomes something that they can agree to without question.
Each player will know exactly what is expected of him and the part they have to play in the team success. The level of on-the-field camaraderie that Capello will aim to create will be such that each player will want the others to succeed.
Together, they will seek to build a force much greater than the sum of the parts. When it works, it is a formidable presence; it will become a team of winners. This collective will is the equivalent of having an extra player on the pitch. Its the way that, despite all the animosity he had to face, he fashioned a title winning team out of an uneasy post galactico Real Madrid.
Like previous coaches, the honeymoon period will be short and maybe not so sweet. There will, inevitably, be complaints, and there will be high profile casualties. But, after England’s years of institutionalised under-performance, no one has any legitimate grounds to dispute Capello’s methods. Dr. Reality has finally come to town; the medicine may be bitter but it will do the job!