It is quite astonishing just how quickly one’s perception can change, especially within the fickle realms of football. Just one year ago, Fabio Capello was poised to become the sole figure responsible for restoring the pride of a withering football nation by exhibiting his coaching skills on the grand stage of World Cup 2010. Today he is more comparable to a babbling buffoon than a managerial mastermind. Capello is an erratic manager whose disciplinarian approach and wealth of experience contrived only to cause an unimpressive World Cup campaign of catastrophic proportions. Whilst there is an enormous debate in itself as to whether he should have been allowed to continue in his capacity as England manager, he is the man who has been entrusted by the Football Association to rebuild the nation’s shattered dreams. Even now, some seven months since the shambles in South Africa, Capello’s management of the national team continues to come under close scrutiny, most recently for issues surrounding his selection policy.
In Fabio Capello’s first post-World Cup interview he was harassed by the press for answers as to how he planned to counter-act the decline which had become apparent within the English national team. He responded with a disjointed and seemingly random list of untried English players, amongst those, Fulham’s ‘one season wonder’ and severely injury prone, 29 year old Bobby Zamora. The future at this stage looked bleak and uncertain for English football and it was largely accepted that the farcical way in which the team was organised would continue for a while longer yet. The former Real Madrid, AC Milan and Juventus manager continued his bewildering and desperate selection policy by gifting debuts to Bolton’s combative 33 year old Kevin Davies and Championship standard front-man Jay Bothroyd. Whilst admittedly the talent pool of English players has been rapidly evaporating, the phrase ‘scraping the barrel’ springs to mind.
However, despite some truly inexplicable call-ups, Fabio Capello is beginning to stamp his authority on the game once again largely by selecting players based on their club form rather than reverting to the so called super-stars who failed so miserably at the World Cup. His willingness to explore new alternatives is a necessity at this present time in English football. The once aptly named ‘golden generation’ are swiftly becoming ‘the olden generation’ and fresh talent must now be integrated into the squad, a method which Capello has almost immediately put into practice. Thus far, there have been debut appearances for a list of talented young individuals including Adam Johnson, Jack Wilshere, and Jordan Henderson. When England travel to Copenhagen this Wednesday, they will be escorted by Kyle Walker, the latest young player Fabio Capello is hoping can contribute towards a more exuberant England.
Fabio Capello has long been looking for a player to justify his sporadic selection policy and he may just have uncovered the answer to his problems in 20 year old Walker. He is a player with very limited Premier League experience, amassing just a handful of first team appearances at Aston Villa, and as a result he remains an unfamiliar figure to many football fans. However, his recent surge into top flight football is by no coincidence, this player has exceptional talent and a truly mouth-watering amount of potential. Much credit must be given to Capello and his scouting team for identifying Walker’s England credentials based on so few appearances.
Should Kyle Walker get his chance, and eventually he almost certainly will do, England fans should expect an uncompromising defensive full back, with an enormous leap and electric pace. Whilst defensively he is formidable he is equally adept going forward. His marauding attacking runs into the opposition penalty area frequently cause havoc whilst he also wields a ferocious shot. During his time at Queens Park Rangers earlier this season he was often used as the primary attacking outlet, which is highly impressive for a full back, a position which is more associated with defending than attacking. He was twice named as man of the match for Q.P.R when playing in front of the live television cameras, an indication that Walker’s ability was already at a level greater than the second tier of English football. Once his loan with the R’s had expired he was instantly taken by Premier League club Aston Villa and his two goals in four appearances were enough to earn him his first senior England call-up.
Not only Walker, but also players such as Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere and Adam Johnson represent a positive ray of light for English national football but only if they are managed correctly. It would be unwise to start dishing out exaggerated labels once again like ‘the golden generation’ or drawing comparisons with past greats. These players must be allowed time to become stars and perhaps one day they will be. Fabio Capello may not be around for long but he has initiated a new dawn within the England team, one which fails to reward players for past glories but instead acknowledges form and potential. Long should this system continue if we are to go any way towards repairing the damaged infrastructure of English football. As for Kyle Walker fate appears firmly on his side. England’s greatest modern day right back, Gary Neville, retired from professional football last week coinciding with Walker’s first England call-up. Maybe, just maybe a new star has been born.
- Paul Richards