As I’ve got older I’m not too bothered about celebrating birthdays and I think this week Fabio Capello joined the gang.
He certainly won’t be playing the Beatles song ‘When I’m 64’ because it will remind him surely of one of his worst nightmares.
Full marks to him and Steven Gerrard for facing up to the cameras immediately after last night’s 0-0 draw with Algeria, though I suppose it’s in the contract nowadays.
Gerrard didn’t try to make excuses, Fabio could on this occasion hide behind his broken English because as a manager I think he probably knew what he would like to say but it would be more for the dressing room than the general public.
No excuses – you can’t blame the ball, you can’t blame those ridiculous trumpet things, which incidentally I hope the FA do not allow on our grounds next season, you can’t blame the pitch or certainly a lack of support where we probably outnumbered the Algerian fans five or ten to one.
It was just a bad performance.
Apart from David James who did everything required of him, thank goodness, I can’t think of any other player who came out with more than five out of ten.
There were one or two who if the editor allowed would certainly get nearer one than five.
Let’s start with Wayne Rooney who is now, whether he likes it or not, up there with the Lionel Messis and Ronaldos of this world, not just because he gets a massive salary – but because he plays for Manchester United, scores goals regularly and is admired. But what on earth went wrong last night?
The frustration showed towards the end when he was back in his own half trying to get the ball.
Just before, his partner Emile Heskey, who is supposed to be up front putting pressure on the centre halves, laying the ball down to Wayne, found himself back on the edge of his own box helping out John Terry and Jamie Carragher.
To me, those two looked exhausted from about 30 minutes onwards.
It surely couldn’t have been a sun tan as it’s winter in South Africa. Jamie Carragher was red and puffing and panting – but at least he is whole hearted and is the sort who will put his body in the way of anything.
We have to remember this is England and we should have shown a lot more class.
The opposition, who are way down the list in the world rankings, were cool and calm, kept possession expertly, played what we would call keep ball, sometimes in dangerous positions in my opinion, but had so much confidence and pace where it mattered on the wings.
But of course like lots of these smaller countries they lacked the finishing which would have really embarrassed England.
I don’t know if it’s only me but Frank Lampard, outstanding at Cheslea, the champions of the Premiership and FA Cup winners, hardly gets a mention in the commentaries when he’s playing for England.
I remember when I was assistant to Graham Taylor my main job was the under-21 team but also in our three to four year period there were eight B team games.
I could select players who were too old for the under-21s and on the edge of the international squad.
This enabled us to see who could possibly make the first team squad.
I wonder if we could possibly bring those games back.
I know it’s difficult with the heavy fixture list but in a week when England play on a Wednesday night and the under-21s on the Tuesday, surely a B game could be played somewhere else in the country on the Tuesday night which the England manager could watch.
The questions such as which is the best goalkeeper, have we got someone to play on the left hand side, should we play with a holding player in midfield, do we stick to 4-4-2, which not many of the players do in their club teams, or have a diamond formation with two wide players, can be answered?
These experiments admittedly can be tried out in training but there’s nothing better than playing a game against foreign opposition.
Other things I remember from those days are that I would spend lots of time watching young players for their club teams and I remember selecting one or two who were outstanding at clubs like Arsenal and Chelsea and yet, when they joined up with players from other clubs, never seemed to be more than ordinary.
The point I realised was at their clubs they were surrounded by top class players, many of them seasoned internationals, but when on their own they did not have that extra element which could lift their game on the international stage.
Quite honestly, watching England this week made me wonder if the pressure was affecting the players.
Could it be that Mr Capello’s very serious minded approach to the business is putting a choker on the players’ natural instincts.
I think most people agreed when he barred the wives and girlfriends and he has also made sure that the press are kept at more than an arm’s length away from the training camp unless by invitation on selected days.
He cancelled out any players writing columns in newspapers, which I tend to agree with, but also he frowns on the use of Internet and telephones. Yet even so with his well known habit of only announcing the team two hours before we all knew three days before the Algeria game that Gareth Barry was playing.
And David James must have figured out he was playing, or Rob Green that he wasn’t, because the bookmakers, who often are the best judge of anyone, seemed to have worked it out. They stopped taking bets many hours before kick-off. They knew who was going to be in goal.
So there are lots of questions and, when you’re winning, the answers can be whatever the manager wants them to be but, as Fabio will find in the days leading up to the third game, everything he has done so far will be under the microscope.
Various media outlets will be placing blame wherever they can but Fabio will know, because he has said himself, the buck rests with him.
I just wonder what the situation would have been like had we had an English manager and the performances had been the same.