Fabio Capello hit back last night after the international community criticised the England football team for becoming embroiled in yet another intractable foreign campaign that everyone agrees is unwinnable. ‘We have learned from the mistakes of the past,’ said Capello, ‘and this time we are entering the competition with a clear exit strategy. I give my personal assurance that we will have the boys home inside a fortnight.’
Criticism of the England team began when it was suggested that following a meeting with the USA next Saturday, Capello and elements of the media will begin talking up regime change as the real reason for sending forces to South Africa. ‘Let’s quash these rumours now,’ said Capello. ‘You just have to look at my squad to see that this is not an attempt to topple the current rulers of the international game. Besides we are lacking key supplies, such as a playmaker, a natural left-footed wide man and competent penalty-takers.’
However, hawks within the media have called for Capello and the FA to press ahead with their offensive. ‘We need to show these foreigners who’s the boss,’ said the Daily Mail’s Matt Lawton. ‘We can’t allow them to continue infiltrating the English game after spending time at those overseas training camps.’
Capello’s pledge to pull his forces out early comes just a day after the conflict claimed its first casualty when an officer from the Manchester defence corps was brutally cut down in a friendly fire incident. The man’s family has been informed.
But the FA is confident that this tournament it has got the strategy right. ‘What I think will reassure the British public is that we have a clear timetable for withdrawal,’ said David Sheepshanks, joint-acting Chairman of the FA. ‘Fans won’t have the uncertainty of wondering how long this campaign will drag on, and can safely await the return of their heroes after the Slovenia game on 23 June.’
He also confirmed that plans for a post-defeat rebuilding programme were well advanced, with a period of clearing out the big names and experimenting with younger players to be followed by a desperate return to tried and tested failures before the 2012 European Championships.