Fabio Capello, the English Premier League and the National Football Team

Jon FeatonbyCorrespondent IAugust 10, 2010

BLOEMFONTEIN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 27:  Fabio Capello manager of England looks thoughtful ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Round of Sixteen match between Germany and England at Free State Stadium on June 27, 2010 in Bloemfontein, South Africa.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

England will be looking to banish the memories of their summer in South Africa when they take to the field at Wembley to take on Hungary in an international friendly.

For manager Fabio Capello and his players it is their first game since crashing out of the World Cup after a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Germany.

Capello has already said that the eleven players that will start the game will be made up of players who were in the World Cup squad. He stated that "this is sure because, like me, they have to take the booing."

Capello is certainly right that both he and the team should expect a less than friendly welcome from the home fans tomorrow night.

And although it is only a friendly, anything less than a win coupled with a promising performance will only provide ammo to the Italian's numerous critics.

But Capello's preparations for the match haven't exactly gone to plan.

Two players who didn't travel to South Africa but who were named in the squad for the match against Hungary have since announced their retirement from international football.

Manchester United's Wes Brown and Blackburn's Paul Robinson both made their decisions after being called up.

One of the criticisms oft aimed at Capello is that the struggles to communicate with his players, especially those on the fringe of his squad. Brown and Robinson's decisions would suggest that indeed Capello really know his players, especially those who are outside his key 15/16 players.

Then came the almost comical moment at Sunday's Community Shield match between Manchester United and Chelsea.

As United midfielder Michael Carrick made his way up the Wembley steps to collect his winners medal, Capello seemed shocked to see the former Spurs player appearing fully fit.

Carrick, who played 79 minutes before being replaced by Ryan Giggs, had been left out of the England squad after his club announced that he was injured.

Capello made a gesture to suggest that he would be calling Carrick to find out just what happened.

However, would it actually be Capello who makes that call?

Carrick's team-mate Paul Scholes put in a man-of-the-match performance against Chelsea at the weekend and how good a player he remains at 36 years old.

His creative passing was one of the many things lacking for England in South Africa and much was made of the apparent attempt made by Capello to lure Scholes out of international retirement.

But what actually happened was that Capello's second in command, Franco Baldini was the man who made contact with Scholes—not the England boss.

Could the Italian not find five minutes in his admittedly busy schedule to try and persuade a player who he must have wanted to select to come and play at the World Cup?

Scholes himself has said that he may well have been more likely to have said yes had Capello made the call himself—it most certainly would have meant more.

I'm not saying that Scholes should have gone or that if he had England would have fared better, but the fact that Capello didn't make the phone call does worry me.

I also don't think that Capello alone is responsible for England's poor showing at the World Cup.

The structure of English football, from the grass-roots up, has long been a subject of much debate.  A full—and excellent—discussion regarding this has been written by Ian Dorward and it is recommended reading for anyone interested in this element.

A related issue is one that Capello has highlighted.

The England squad selected for the World Cup was the oldest at the tournament.

The vast majority of the key players in the side are in the 29-32 age range.  This includes the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, John Terry, Ashley Cole and Gareth Barry.

These players—who made up the so-called "Golden Generation"—will not be around for many more tournaments, if any, and so the cry is for youth to be injected into the team.

However, this is far easier said than done.

Since taking the job, Capello has always said that he will select players based on club form and so players have to be playing at club level in order to be considered.

But the influx of foreign players—including at youth level—limits the opportunities for younger players to get starting experience for the top clubs. Furthermore, those players who excel at smaller, English clubs are overpriced when compared to the deals that can be done by shopping around.

Take James Milner for example. Sure, Aston Villa aren't a small club and Milner's potential suitors Manchester City aren't exactly struggling for cash, but the £24million isn't too far off what Liverpool payed for Fernando Torres and isn't a million miles away from the fee Barcelona recently parted with to secure the signing of David Villa.

Even the two Arsenal youngsters who Capello named in the squad to play Hungary—Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere—have been warned that if they want to remain in contention for the national side then they must hold down first-team places.

These are matters outside of Capello's control and the Premier League has—to its credit—put its hand up and said that it is in-part responsible for the failure of the English team.

Because of this, the Premier League has introduced the 25-man squad rule for the upcoming EPL season.

The day following the end of the summer transfer window, each club will have to name 25 players who will make up the squad for Premier League games. 

In a further attempt to encourage clubs to play more English players, a maximum of 17 non home-grown players are allowed in the squad. This means that potentially each club will have a minimum of eight home-grown players in their first-team squads.

But the rule isn't as simply as it sounds.

Firstly, home-grown players count as any player that has been affiliated with an English or Welsh club for a period of three entire seasons or 36 months prior to his 21st birthday (or the end of the season during which he turns 21).

This means that a host of non-British players count as being home grown.

Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas and Liverpool's Emilio Insua are among those that count as home grown.

Furthermore, the 25 man squad can be added to by an unlimited number of players under the age of 21.

So anyone who was hoping that this rule would mean that young, home-grown players would have an increased chance to get Premier League experience will have their hopes quashed.

Take Liverpool. Following the signing of Joe Cole, manager Roy Hodgson is likely to name six home-grown players in his squad. Rather than being forced to name two British youngsters to make-up the number, he can rely on foreign talent.

There are also further knock-on effects of this rule.

Home-grown players will have an added value to clubs and this will drive up their transfer fees.

Clubs will also have an incentive to get foreign youngsters into their academies so that by the time they turn 21, they qualify as home-grown. This will surely decrease the opportunities for young British players to rise through the ranks at clubs.

I don't have the answer to England's problems, but I am almost certain that this new rule will do little, if anything, to help their fortunes in the Euro Championships in 2012.

Will a new manager help? Maybe.

But until our young players are given the chance to excel the highest level, I can't see England challenging for major honours anytime soon.


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