England coach Fabio Capello has urged fans not to boo his side if they struggle to break Kazakhstan down today. The Italian has made the plea ahead of this afternoon’s match at Wembley. England fans have always had high expectations for their team, but in recent months supporters have become increasingly vocal in venting their dismay when these expectations have not been reached.
Understandably, Capello is eager to protect his players from booing by their own fans. He said: “I hope the fans don’t boo after 20 minutes if England don’t score a goal in that time. This is very important. Don’t boo. You have to help us. Help us. It’s very, very important for the players to play. And we have to ask the fans to help us.”
It is easy to pinpoint an exact change of mentality within the England support and, like most things in England’s recent history, can be blamed on Steve McClaren! The Euro 2008 qualifier against Andorra in Barcelona sparked scenes of vitriol directed towards the England players which had not been seen before. A game against a small nation in a neutral venue was turned into a pressure-cooker atmosphere by the England following as they voiced their anger at the failure to break England down.
England still came away from the match comfortable winners, despite the score being 0-0 at half-time. It is doubtful whether the booing actually spurred the England players on. Even the most aloof of internationals would have recognised that a draw with Andorra was not acceptable.
The fans’ reaction was probably as much to do with a growing frustration with Steve McClaren’s management as the performance on the night. Since then the boo boys have been simmering. Fabio Capello has been afforded slightly more patience than his predecessor, but the atmosphere does threaten to boil over if things do not go England’s way.
Capello evidently recognises this and is eager to put a stop to it. And he has good reason to. England fans have a right to voice their concerns, just as a club fan does having paid the money for a ticket to support their team. But booing during the match is unlikely to have any tangible positive effect. At full-time, if the result is not the right one, then it is an appropriate time to heckle the players. But during the match it is only likely to damage the team’s performance further.
The best club fans are not those that sing loudest when their team is winning, but that rally to carry an under-performing side to the right result. The archetypal twelfth man. This is what Capello is looking to the English support to provide.