'You can drink, play the field – as long as you win'


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The Independent Online

When Fabio Capello began as England manager his ideal pre-match discussion would concern tactics, his feelings about the opposition and perhaps the occasional rearranging of reporters' digital recorders on the table in front of him to demonstrate different formations. He might throw in the odd reminiscence about Arrigo Sacchi and get out as quickly as possible.

Capello (right) has learnt, however, that football in England is as much about the personalities that play it and as manager he is the leader of the team, the man who must make a judgement on everything from the arrest of the star player's father to what constitutes an acceptable way to wind down during a major tournament. These days, he expects to be asked. There is part of him that revels in it.

It was inevitable yesterday that the arrest of Wayne Rooney's father in relation to irregular betting patterns in football would be a key topic, news that the Football Association staff and England players learnt only when they turned on their phones after their flight landed in Podgorica yesterday afternoon. Where Rooney is concerned, the shockwaves have a profound effect on the rest of the team.

With hindsight, at the 2010 World Cup finals part of his discomfort must have related to the knowledge that revelations about his private life were imminent. As far as his father's arrest goes, Capello, and the FA, privately regard the current situation as much less potentially destabilising for Rooney than the call-girl allegations of last year. Capello knows from bitter experience he cannot afford to have his main man distracted.

But it led on to a wider discussion about how Capello will manage his players next summer if they avoid defeat in Montenegro tonight and qualify for Euro 2012 without having to wait for results next week or go in via next month's play-offs. As a rugby union fan, he was also well aware of the misfortunes that have befallen Martin Johnson's team at the rugby World Cup in New Zealand as they have limped from one embarrassing off-field mistake to another.

Ignoring the increasingly desperate attempts of the FA press minder at his side to take him along a safer route, Capello waded into the argument with his imperfect English to advance a theory that was surprising to say the least. "Everything when you win is good, the perfect choice, the best choice; if you drink or go with women," he said. "Everything is good if you win. When you lose, it's a disaster. The results are the most important thing."

It was at this point that he had to assure the man from the FA. "I know what I've said. Don't worry." And then he ploughed on. "Everything is good when you win. The other things are wrong when you lose. I know the Dutch team stayed together from 10 May, staying longer together [than England did].

"I found out in the meeting we had after the World Cup. They were together for two months, more or less. And you saw what happened: it was fine because they finished second."