Capello lays down the law

As England's players sat down for breakfast at their team hotel it quickly became clear Fabio Capello's strict regime had already made its mark.

updated: February 08, 2008 12:32 IST
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As England's players sat down for breakfast at their team hotel it quickly became clear Fabio Capello's strict regime had already made its mark.

Capello has never shied away from puncturing a few egos during his managerial career and the new England coach has wasted little time bringing a much-needed dose of reality into his squad's cosseted existence.

The Italian had already served notice that reputation alone is no longer enough to play for England when he left David Beckham out of the squad for his first match against Switzerland on Wednesday.

But Capello was only just getting started. While he respects the ability of his stars, the neccessity for total concentration on the task at hand while on international duty needed to be reinforced a little more.

He has reportedly told the players that friends and agents are not welcome at the team hotel, made it clear they must be on time for meals and eat at the same tables and emphasised the importance of group time together rather than their preferred habit of playing computer games in their rooms.

While it is the kind of strict regime that may not be received with universal delight among England's pampered millionaires, Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard believes Capello shouldn't worry about making friends.

Gerrard has first-hand experience of Rafa Benitez's no-nonsense approach at Anfield and knows that hasn't stopped Liverpool enjoying success.

"I wouldn't say you have to intimidate players but you have to get their respect and let them know who's the boss. What he says goes and we have to adapt to that," Gerrard said.

"I'm used to that with Rafa. As long as there is a big respect between the manager and his players that's not a problem.

"It's not about enjoying yourself off the pitch. It's all about seriousness and getting results in an England shirt."

Capello, who has been addressing the players by surname only, is likely to keep them waiting for the team line-up until 90 minutes before kick-off at Wembley. That way he has their attention and focus right up until the last minute. It is a routine that holds no fears for Gerrard.

"It creates anxiety when the manager keeps players waiting to find out the team. I am used to that," he said.

"I experience that with Liverpool most games. Rafa picks the team an hour and a half before kick-off. If Fabio decides to do that, I'll be well prepared."

Capello's authoritarian streak may also to extend to team-building. His core values are discipline and organization and at Real Madrid he often frustrated the home fans by playing with two defensive midfielders in an attempt to grind down the opposition.

That kind of sterile approach is frowned upon at the Bernabeu but by the end of the season Real were champions and Capello had made his point.

After a lacklustre qualifying campaign that ended with failure to reach Euro 2008, Gerrard has no qualms about sacrificing flair in exchange for winning football.

"My first impression is that he's a winner. He has a certain aura. Probably the third word out of his mouth was winning. He never once mentioned individuals, it was all about the team winning," Gerrard said.

"As players you want to win. Whatever it takes, you do it. I would certainly rather play in a team that is difficult to beat even if it's not easy on the eye.

"If I went on to achieve something with England with a team that was a bit more defensive I'd take that now."

Like his predecessor Steve McClaren, Capello's plans will often be disrupted by injury. He had an early taste of that as, following injuries to Gabriel Agbonlahor, Emile Heskey and Ledley King, Shaun Wright-Phillips missed training on Monday with an ankle problem.

Not even Capello can control everything it seems.