Issue The longer route to success

As told by Jason Mckeown

Last week the FA chose Fabio Capello as the man who they believe can lift the English national team to future glory. After the failure of Steve McClaren to lead England to next summer’s European Championships, there’s been a lot of pressure heaped upon the FA to get the appointment right and Capello’s record at various top clubs suggests that success for England will quickly follow. Yet while Steve McClaren was judged by some as a safety first appointment, Capello is surely much more so.

There’s been the usual howls of discontent about going for a foreign coach from the usual suspects and I find myself feeling sympathy for them. True, there aren’t really any outstanding English managers who were in the frame, but perhaps the FA could have seen beyond this and truly looked to the future, like so many were howling at them to do in the wake of McClaren’s dismissal.

The England team are always under heavy pressure from the media and fans, but now could have been the time for appointing a bright young coach like Aidy Boothroyd and opting to build both the national team and the set up that surrounds it, while giving them time to develop in the role and implement their ideas and beliefs.

With a reasonably easy looking World Cup qualifying group (though we’ve heard that before) there’s three years of building before England will presumably compete in the 2010 South Africa tournament. Capello will be just short of retirement age by then and hardly likely to still be in the England hot seat four years after.

I might be wrong, but I don’t see Capello worrying himself with the development of young talent in England and busting a gut to go and watch the various England youth teams. Understandably, his priority is delivering immediate success with the senior side. He is also bringing in fellow Italian countrymen to act as backroom staff and run the team. It will be interesting to see what sort of relationship these people have with the England youth coaches.

I don’t think you can blame the FA for going for the quick fix. They’re under pressure themselves and any failure in the near future will see calls for them, alongside the manager, to go. But what about the England team in five years, or ten, or twenty? The FA are paying Capello a reported £6 million a year. There’s plenty of people raising their voices about the failings with youth development in England, what could an extra £5 million a year do to aid that?

I watched some of the TV footage of Capello’s press conference on Monday and found it bewildering. As a caption appeared on the TV screen translating into English Capello’s comments it was hard to believe I was watching the England manager speak. Typically it seemed he was only asked tedious questions about John Terry and David Beckham. Over the last month various journalists have written opinionated columns about the failings of English football in the wake of the McClaren era. They might as well save these pieces on their lap tops; in two years time they could be writing more or less the same thing again.

Closer to home, the latest choice of manager at Valley Parade was a very different decision. Stuart McCall’s appointment might have been universally popular among City fans, but the Board knew that they were also appointing someone with limited experience. There was certainly nothing ‘safety first’ about choosing to bring Stuart back. We could have gone for someone like Peter Jackson and have been confident he could have taken us forward quickly; though it’s questionable how far he could ultimately have taken us, just like Capello and England.

By selecting Stuart I believe that we have selected a longer term approach. In his first position as number one, mistakes will undoubtedly be made. No one, in any walk of life, gets things right all the time and with each day in charge his experience will grow. Judgement of players, man management of different personalities and changing the course of games looking lost – all necessary abilities of any successful manager, though not learnt over night. Will success be as instant with Stuart than it would have been with someone like Peter Jackson? Probably not, but who would leave the club in the best of health?

And let’s face it; Bradford City is a club that has been failing on and off the pitch for a few years. We badly needed to change the way we do things, because the results speak for themselves. Of course there are good reasons for our failure, the financial strife caused by over stretching ourselves in the Premiership have taken years to sort out. This summer Mark Lawn has come in and wiped out those remaining debts. We can look forward to the future with much more optimism, but as we do so we find ourselves stuck in the bottom division.

Speaking about the up coming January transfer window, Stuart made some very interesting points. Of course, with the season not going as well as hoped, he is looking to bring in new players to improve results and, like his predecessors, the budget available will mean only loan signings are likely to made. Yet even with this short term issue Stuart says he is aiming to bring in temporary players who potentially may become permanent signings in the summer. It would be reasonably easy to bring in reserve players at Championship and League One clubs who are too good for this level, but just bringing in people whose aim is to impress enough to win a place at their parent club or earn a transfer elsewhere will only benefit us in the short term. Instead Stuart is hoping to bring in loan players who we might later sign permanently and play a significant role in future seasons.

Surely this kind of approach, looking at City’s future in years rather than months, is more preferable. Previous managers have had little choice due to the finances, but the last few years we have experienced a high turnover of players with dire consequences. This week I’ve been enjoying old videos of City’s 1998/99 promotion season and recalled the fantastic contributions of so many former City greats. A team that had Walsh, Bruno, Tumble, OB, Whalley, Beagrie, Blake, Lawrence, Mills, Flash and of course Stuart and Jakes – so many heroes! There have been very few players in recent years whose efforts for the club would see them described in such a way, but it would be nice to think we could have players in the near future who could reach such a status amongst us.

During his first interview after been appointed as manager, Stuart also spoke of wanting to bring in players who would be with City for years. I felt at the time that part of his view was formed by the career that he himself enjoyed with City. He, and so many of his team mates, gave so much to City and are rightly held in high regard for this. Being part of successful Bradford City teams will help him to understand what he needs from players now.

The fact that he has also come through the youth ranks with us will also mean he will understand the importance of this side of Bradford City. There were murmurings that some previous City managers didn’t pay enough attention to this area, perhaps unfair given the steady stream of youngsters who have been given a first team chance. If we’re going to produce talented youngsters who can really take this club forward, I would suggest having a manager who has come through those same youth ranks can only aid the club’s ability and understanding to do so.

All of which links back to Capello. What does the man charged with lifting English football know about it? What idea of our history and tradition does he have? It can be argued that this is irrelevant if he wins matches, which he surely will, but what’s the long term aim? Surely the English national team should stretch beyond the 11 players.

I’m comparing the situations of the national team and Bradford City because they have both hit their respective low points recently. Our relegation to League Two is probably the equivalent to England’s failure to qualify for Euro 2008 and our dismal 3-0 loss at Chesterfield last April was as passionless and clueless as that of England’s Croatia Wembley defeat. Both City and England have been in the situation of needing to rebuild. England have gone for the quick fix in Capello and are likely to enjoy immediate better times, but the long term ratifications for English football in employing an Italian concerned only with delivering immediate success remains to be seen. City have gone for the untested and inexperienced Stuart, but a man who understands our great club and who, for the first time in years, has the stability to restore it’s pride. I’ve heard some fans criticise Stuart and that’s fair enough, we’re all allowed our opinion. But anyone who has watched Stuart play for us can’t forget the way he performed and how much he gave to this club. He might get things wrong as manager, but his effort and motives cannot be questioned.

Capello’s experience and greater resources will mean his success will come easier, who will ultimately leave the biggest mark in their respective jobs remains to be seen.