England's Rooney reacts during the Euro 2012 quarter-final soccer match against Italy at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev

The back-and-forth between Wayne Rooney, Fabio Capello

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All this back-and-forth sniping from England striker Wayne Rooney and former Three Lions manager Fabio Capello really is unbecoming. It looks and smells like sour grapes – for two very different reasons, but sour grapes nonetheless.

But since they started it ….

Capello, who was in charge of England until earlier this year, told an Italian newspaper that Rooney only seems to play at his best when he’s in the Manchester United kit.

“After seeing the latest (England) game, I think Rooney only understands Scottish,” said Capello, when asked to comment on England’s quarterfinal loss to Italy. Care to explain a little further, Fabio?

“He only plays well in Manchester where Sir Alex Ferguson speaks Scottish.”

Ah, “Scottish.” That’s the one Mike Myers speaks in all those funny skits and movies, right?

Capello got himself in an Italian twist because Rooney said the England camp was better under Roy Hodgson because there are no longer any communication problems or “words lost in translation.”

Two kids in the sandbox, arguing over the pale and plastic shovel.

So, who is right? Neither.

Remember, Rooney wasn’t always at full-Rooney during the recently completed Premiership campaign. Ferguson even complained of Rooney’s unfocused performances in the closing weeks, how the striker lacked the requisite bite, the very edge that makes Rooney a special talent.

And if Rooney doesn’t always rise to league-level best when playing for the England shirt – well, there’s a long and distinguished list of similar men. It’s not a “Rooney condition,” it’s the “England condition,” the debilitating pressure and the terrible burden of unrealistic expectation that cracks these guys.

And doesn’t that help explain any Capello shortcomings? Rooney would have to remind us what those were, by the way. Capello got England to the European Championship, where England proved to be exactly what we all thought: a slightly above average team in the field.

Daily Telegraph columnist Mark Ogden had a good take on the verbal firefight:

The difference between Ferguson and Capello, however, is that the United manager will work on Rooney every day and get under his skin in a way that Capello never could.

Ferguson also had better players at his disposal to help elevate Rooney’s performances. More often than not, Rooney takes a step down in quality when he joins up with the England squad.

That is the heart of it. The England talent just isn’t there right now to be more – but everyone keeps straining to say it some other way.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.