Gareth Barry yesterday gave the most optimistic indication so far that he is winning his battle to be fit in time to fly to South Africa on 1 June with the England World Cup squad.
The Manchester City midfielder has stayed behind to have treatment in Manchester while the rest of the 30-man England squad train at altitude in Austria with Fabio Capello. Barry will be given up to the last minute to prove his fitness to Capello who could yet take the player even if he will not be fit in time for the opening match against the United States on 12 June.
Barry told his club's website: "The treatment on my ankle has been going well – I've been having regular sessions with the medical staff at Carrington, and they are pleased with how things are going. It's too early to assess just yet as to whether I'll make it, I'll just have to keep having the treatment and see how things go over the next week or so. But I'm feeling positive still and the medical staff are being brilliant – they are doing everything they can to help me."
In all likelihood, Barry will not see his team-mates unless he is fit for the flight to Johannesburg next month but the rest of the 30-man England squad were finally united in Austria yesterday. The Chelsea players Frank Lampard, John Terry, Ashley Cole and Joe Cole as well as the Portsmouth goalkeeper David James joined up for the first time having played in Saturday's FA Cup final.
The training session yesterday was high intensity with Capello insistent that players did not allow themselves any lapses in concentration. The drills were aimed at high-tempo play with the emphasis on movement and passing and getting as many players into the box as possible. The players finished with an 11-a-side game in which all but the five new arrivals played.
Capello is using the Austrian camp in Irdning chiefly as a means of getting the players accustomed to training and playing at altitude. In an interview with the League Managers' Association official magazine that was released this week, he laid out the principles that will guide him over the next few weeks as he builds up to England's first game.
"As a club manager you can work with your players every day, you can train to improve and study what happened and why in between each game and you can usually rectify things quickly," he said. "As England manager, I can do a lot of in-depth preparation and then there's an injury and everything I have prepared is for nothing.
"At the moment, all the teams press a lot to win the ball back quickly. In Spain, the style is to play a lot of football and not the long ball; you have to arrive after 25 short passes to shoot or score a goal. In Italy, the system is different, with more tactics involved. I believe that if you study all the club teams in the various countries, and all the national teams, you will find a mix of different styles and because of this football has improved a lot.
"For me, the World Cup is a really big challenge. I think England are one of the best teams in the world and we can win against anyone," Capello added. "My approach to the World Cup is relaxed now. I have to study the other countries we will be playing against and hope that everything we are preparing will be ready for the tournament."
While he kills the hours between training sessions in Austria, Capello is also preparing for his next campaign to qualify for Euro 2012. He has asked for a DVD of the England Under-17s European Championship victory over the Czech Republic on Tuesday, the first time that the Italian has ever shown any interest in the junior England sides.
The likes of Josh McEachran of Chelsea and Benik Afobe from Arsenal who both scored in the 3-1 win over the Czechs are unlikely to figure in Capello's plans anytime soon – neither of them have even broken into the senior squads at club level – but it is further evidence that the England manager is thinking long-term. He has already had the summer break clause in his contract deleted.Reuse content