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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
So we were right all along, were we? All those criticisms of Steve McClaren's England, the ones that were constantly rebuffed by the players, the accusations that they cared only about themselves, they were all true? Shocking. I am so surprised I shall have to pick my jawbone up off the floor.

Frank Lampard's brutal assessment of life before Fabio Capello should be applauded for its honesty, but what does it say about modern footballers?

"Capello was exactly what we needed," Lampard told a press conference. "We needed a bit more selflessness in the side. At times it was easy to see that we played as individuals too much in the past. We have very, very good individuals, but the team didn't perform because we weren't playing as a group."

Lampard, you may remember, was one of the main offenders, along with his erstwhile partner in midfield, Steven Gerrard. While Germany could field two exceptional midfielders in Michael Ballack and Torsten Frings and have them work in complete harmony, England's exceptional midfielders zipped off doing their own thing, leaving huge expanses of space behind them.

"We just needed someone to put us in line a little bit," Lampard continued, "to get us concentrating on what we're doing."

Let's just focus on that for a moment. England's multi-millionaire footballers needed someone to help them concentrate. Someone else other than McClaren. Or Terry Venables, the assistant manager. Or the 90,000 people who had paid huge sums of money to get into Wembley Stadium. Or the 15m English fans watching on television, usually after paying a whopping great monthly subscription to a cable company. After all of that, they still needed help focusing on the job in hand?

As an Englishman, there have been many occasions over the last year that I have been glad for the arrival of Capello. Not least on that night when my country's footballers finally found it within themselves to rise to the occasion against a rabble of sheep-farmers and kitchen-hands from the Pyrenees. This though, is the peak. For the simple achievements of making the players realise that they are part of a 'team' and that they need to 'concentrate' during football matches, I want him to stay forever.

It was difficult to keep the faith during the McClaren era. Not just as a fan, but as a journalist as well. There were times when I would question myself. Surely their ineptitude wasn't entirely due to a lack of effort, I would think as I wrestled with my conscience. Surely there must be something that I'm missing? But, no. Apparently that was actually the reason.

But while part of me wants to roll up every copy of The New Paper from the summer of 2006 to the winter of 2007 and beat the nearest England player over the head with it, perhaps we should let it lie. Lampard has been magnificent this season, never shirking from the challenge of dragging Chelsea out of their malaise and, if anything, Gerrard has been even better in his efforts to propel Liverpool to a title single-handedly. England now face the Ukraine in a match that could see the bookies withdrawing odds on their World Cup qualification. Who could have seen that happening a year ago? Maybe we had to go through the darkness of the McClaren era just to reach the dawn of Capello. Let's just hope we never have to go back.
Couldn't agree more, but just wait until we hit a rut and have a run of disappointing results. I reckon that three competitive games without a win will probably be enough to give rise to cries of "Tilly Capello out" from fans who apparently have gained some measure of masochistic pleasure from watching England under the previous few managers and are quite happy to roll the dice again.
What is a little bit odd is that the players go against what Capello says in the media.

Capello: Rooney needs to calm down.
Beckham, Terry: Rooney is fine. Leave him alone.

Capello: Michael Owen is the past.
Lampard: Michael Owen will play again for England.

If this team is going to suceed they need to realise that they're not bigger than Capello or the England team. I'd like Capello to stamp down on this, and anyone who doesn't tow the party line is dropped. Perhaps these overpaid primadonnas will get the message then?