LONDON (AP) – The soap opera of English soccer reached yet another a noisy climax Wednesday when national team coach Fabio Capello quit angrily just eight hours after potential successor Harry Redknapp was cleared in a London court of tax evasion charges.
Only four months before the European Championship, Capello's employers stripped John Terry of the England captaincy over racism charges without consulting the manager - and as a result now finds itself seeking a new team leader.
The career of Redknapp, a hugely popular Londoner who is currently manages the Premier League team Tottenham, had been on hold until the end of his trial.
But in a coincidence of timings, Redknapp was cleared by a jury on Wednesday and installed as favorite to assume one of the most high-profile jobs in international soccer following Capello's sudden exit.
The headline in The Times seemed to sum up the day: ''Harry walks, Fabio runs.''
Capello, a 65-year-old urbane Italian, had enjoyed some success in the England job but had never won the affections of a soccer-mad public hungry for the nation's first major title since 1966.
Now he has walked out on the $9 million-a-year job, dismayed at being publicly undermined by the English Football Association's decision to fire Terry against his wishes last week despite the defender facing a criminal trial on racism charges.
Such a public spat with his employers made the Capello's position untenable. He quit during an hourlong meeting with FA officials that focused on Capello's TV outburst.
''We have accepted Fabio's resignation, agreeing this is the right decision,'' FA Chairman David Bernstein said. ''We would like to thank Fabio for his work with the England team and wish him every success in the future.''
Bernstein does not have to rush into a replacing Capello. And it seems certain that the next manager will not be another foreigner after four years of a coach who spoke halting English.
At least, an English coach would already be accustomed to the drama surrounding the national team.
Terry was restored as England captain 11 months ago despite Capello dramatically dropping the defender from the honor before the 2010 World Cup for allegedly having an affair with the ex-girlfriend of teammate Wayne Bridge, who subsequently quit the national team.
Off-field antics also caused a distraction four years in Germany.
The players' wives and girlfriends - the so-called WAGS - dominated the headlines at the 2006 World Cup with their trips into the spa town of Baden-Baden, Germany, where the team was also based.
Although they were largely banned from the 2010 World Cup by the strict Capello, England endured a worse tournament - getting routed 4-1 by Germany in the second round.
After a lengthy honeymoon following a perfect World Cup qualifying campaign, the aura of a once-renowned disciplinarian started to fade at South Africa 2010.
Capello started to feel the kind of pressure he was used to when coaching Real Madrid and AC Milan, with his decision-making coming under scrutiny and memories revived of the misery under predecessor Steve McClaren, whose team failed to qualify for Euro 2008.
Capello clung onto his job after the World Cup, reviving the spirit in the England camp and starting to bring young talent into the team ahead of Euro 2012 - but now comes another period of transition before England's opener on June 11 against France.
''The question everyone is asking, fans and players, where do we go from here?'' England midfielder Jack Wilshere wrote on Twitter. ''Euro's is just around the corner and we have no manager?!?''
An interim coach could take charge of the team for the Feb. 29 exhibition against the Netherlands before the role is filled full time, according to Gareth Southgate, the former England captain who is now the FA's head of elite development.
That could leave Redknapp clear to complete the season with Tottenham, which is third in the Premier League and in contention for the title, before spearheading England's Euro preparations.
''He's got to be an outstanding candidate,'' Southgate said. ''Harry is at the top of the list.''
Support is gathering among players for Redknapp.
''Got to be english to replace (Capello),'' England striker Wayne Rooney wrote on Twitter. ''Harry redknapp for me.''
Capello, though, leaves, the England coach with a record that even eclipses Alf Ramsey, whose 1966 World Cup triumph is still the last - and only - time the country has won a major tournament.
He won 28 matches, lost six and drew eight - a 67 percent success rate compared with Ramsey's 61 percent.