Almost eight years on from Fabio Capello’s final game in charge of the England national team, the Italian has taken a fair bit of flack in recent weeks. A former Champions League winner who won league titles with AC Milan, Real Madrid and Roma, as well as a couple of titles that were later revoked at Juventus, Capello arrived in England with real pedigree and brought genuine excitement.
England still had the likes of John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney in their ranks, and it was hoped that the Italian disciplinarian could crack the whip and get a tune out of the underachieving Three Lions. Capello would do no such thing. He only managed the team at one major tournament, the 2010 World Cup, where England squeaked through the group stages before getting thrashed by the Germans. Capello continued to live in Italy, he struggled to learn the language and his man management was deemed to be cold and uncaring by many England players. The experienced former Italian international may well have lived and breathed every success and failure with us, all England fans, but the optics never looked good.
His reign as England boss came to an end in February 2012 following the FA’s decision to strip John Terry of the England captaincy, and today I’m going to take a look at his last 7 England debutants and where those players are now:
7. Daniel Sturridge – Trabzonspor
Daniel Sturridge was the last player to be handed their England debut by Fabio Capello. The centre-forward was playing for Chelsea at the time, having previously impressed on-loan at Bolton, and his first England cap came against Sweden in November 2011. In only his second England appearance against the Netherlands Sturridge won the Man of the Match award, and the 30-year-old currently has a total of 8 goals from 26 caps. His most famous England moment was a winner against Wales at Euro 2016, but he has barely won a cap since that game. Sturridge left Chelsea to join Liverpool in January 2013, but after an occasionally brilliant but often inconsistent and injury prone seven seasons at Anfield, the striker joined Turkish Super Lig outfit Trabzonspor in August.
6. Kyle Walker – Manchester City
The most capped England international in this seven, Kyle Walker is just two caps off reaching a half-century of appearances for the Three Lions. An absolute machine at right-back who rarely loses a foot race or a 50/50, Walker made his England debut as an 85th minute replacement for Scott Parker against Spain back in 2011. He won the Man of the Match award on his first start against Sweden, and established himself as England’s first choice right-back in 2016. That has changed in recent times though, with England now having remarkable competition at right-back. Walker played as a centre-back at the 2018 World Cup, and has been left out of the last couple of squads in favour of Kieran Trippier and Trent Alexander-Arnold. The full-back has been with Man City since his potential £50 million departure from Tottenham in 2017.
5. Jack Rodwell – Free Agent
From Jay Bothroyd to Carlton Cole, Fabio Capello handed out some pretty dubious debuts, but perhaps none that have turned out poorer with hindsight than Jack Rodwell. A totally natural call-up back in 2011 as a regular fixture and rising star at Everton, Rodwell made his debut in a 1-0 win against Spain. The following summer, he was snapped up by Man City for a potential £15 million, where he played very little football over the next two seasons. Sunderland still looked to have pulled off a bit of a coup by signing Rodwell for around £10 million in 2014, but it turned out to be probably the worst signing in the Black Cats 140 year history. He had four awful seasons at the Stadium of Light, going 1,370 days without winning a Premier League game in which he started, and making just three appearances in his final season. Capped three times by England in total, Rodwell is currently a free agent having spent last season at Blackburn Rovers.
4. Phil Jones – Manchester United
Back in 2013, Sir Alex Ferguson tipped Phil Jones to leapfrog the likes of George Best, Bobby Charlton and Cristiano Ronaldo to become Manchester United’s greatest ever player. Now aged 27, it would probably be fair to say that now looks unlikely. Jones made his England debut in October 2011, four months after his £16.5 million move to Old Trafford, and he has since won 27 caps for the Three Lions. Jones hasn’t won a single cap since the 2018 World Cup though, with poor form at Manchester United putting him behind the likes of Harry Maguire, Joe Gomez and John Stones in Gareth Southgate’s pecking order.
3. Chris Smalling – Roma
Manchester United’s dynamic duo of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling both made their senior international debuts under Fabio Capello in 2011, with Chris Smalling’s debut coming in a 3-0 defeat of Bulgaria in which Smalling himself played at right-back. Now aged 29, the gangly former non-league defender has won a grand total of 31 caps, which is more than the likes of Leighton Baines, Wilf Mannion and the late great Neil Franklin. That’s pretty criminal given that Smalling has arguably only actually had one impressive season out of nine at Manchester United. He hasn’t won a single cap since Gareth Southgate took over as England boss, with the Three Lions boss looking for players who were better at initiating play. Smalling responded by claiming, quote, “I’m as good a defender as anyone.” Which, I’m sure you will agree, is absolute nonsense. Smalling is spending this season on-loan from Man Utd at Roma.
2. Danny Welbeck – Watford
It may surprise some people to hear that Danny Welbeck has won more caps for England than Daniel Sturridge… considerably more in fact. The 28-year-old frontman, who has had his own share of injury struggles over the last five years, has won 42 caps for England in total, scoring 16 goals. That’s more caps than Steve McManaman and more goals than Paul Gascoigne, and he was a member of the England squad that reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup. Despite that, Welbeck has never hit double figures in a Premier League campaign, and he never scored more than 5 league goals in a season for Arsenal. Following an ankle break last season, Welbeck wasn’t offered a new deal at Arsenal, and he joined current club Watford over the summer on a free transfer.
1. Matt Jarvis – Free Agent
The only one-cap wonder in this seven and our final inclusion as well, Matt Jarvis’ only 21 minutes as an England player came under the stewardship of Fabio Capello. Jarvis was having an outstanding season at Wolves, one which would see him named as their Player and Players’ Player of the Year, and he became the first Wolves player to be capped by England since Steve Bull in 1990. He was equally impressive the following season, bagging 8 goals despite Wolves’ relegation, and had a couple of very good seasons at West Ham after that. None quite good enough to earn him another cap for England though, and the 33-year-old is currently a free agent having been released by Norwich City at the end of last season.