Capello To Raise England's Game
Like a new headmaster walking into his first assembly, Fabio Capello would have critically surveyed the horde gathered to welcome him. This one will be trouble, that's a cheeky one, this one could be useful.
Equally, like a bunch of surly schoolkids presented with their new headmaster, the gentlemen of the English press would have analysed the new manager carefully. Possible nicknames, quirks of mannerism - curious turns of phrase to gleefully satirise must wait, for a month at least - the sketched outlines of a soon-to-be-familiar caricature will have been drawn.
The basic structures have already been put in place: the classic sergeant-major character will be the template; 'grumpy' the fittingly infantile adjective most prominent so far. The more forward thinking opinion-formers will already have the permutations of both success and failure mapped out: if victorious, the Roman general - or emperor? - if a failure, a bungling pizza chef.
Far away from Soho Square, in the TV rooms of Premier League club training grounds, or the audio-visual chambers of preposterous footballer mansions, Capello will also have been getting the once over. Few of the England players will view the Italian's appointment in the same way that many of the public and press have: that being the procurement of an exquisitely-crafted, staggeringly-expensive designer Italian shoe, to be launched hard and true at the complacent posteriors of England's finest.
No, with vast wealth usually comes a shield of self-righteousness. The players will have ascribed their absence from Euro 2008 as solely the fault of the toothy mediocrity that led their failed qualifying campaign. They will see themselves as the precious metal, and Capello as another goldsmith charged with making the priceless masterpiece.
But the myth of England possessing a stellar generation of footballers has long been exposed as, at the very least, a wild exaggeration. Quite sensibly, many in English football are not so much equating the current squad with the star-filled rosters that Capello led to nine league championships, but are rather doubting if the Italian can work his magic on a group that is barely average in many areas.
At this point, little also has been said of Capello's methods. Chased out of Madrid despite delivering La Liga in both of his single season spells, in Spain they quip that Wembley will be bored to tears. But after the humiliation they have just endured, few in England have the spirit to demand winning with style.
For us on the outside though, the whole point of the England team is the show, the familiar yet captivating plotline. It's why we secretly curse when they don't qualify for major championships. The vaulting ambition, the groundless optimism, the heartbreaking and hilarious defeat. Steve McLaren's small-time operation never even allowed them the momentum to hyperinflate their expectations. Capello, on the other hand, will have them thinking they can rule the world.
Thing is, they might just be right this time.