Fabio Capello insisted last night that Wayne Rooney was "calm" and "relaxed" ahead of tonight's critical Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro, despite the arrest of his father on suspicion of illegal betting.
Capello is understood to consider the arrest of 48-year-old Wayne Rooney Snr to be unwelcome but, at one remove from the striker, far less debilitating that the personal problems which so damaged the player and squad at the World Cup last summer. "Yes, he's OK. He's OK. No problems. Absolutely no problem," Capello said, five minutes after a discussion with the 25-year-old about the arrest, news of which reached the England squad after they landed here. "He's calm, relaxed. I think, in a really short time, everything will be... we'll find a solution..."
Capello now admits that Rooney's marital problems caused the loss of form which helped bring failure in South Africa and it was also on the eve of England's Euro 2012 qualifier in Switzerland in September last year that allegations of Rooney's assignation with a prostitute were revealed. Capello still selected him in Basle and he scored after 10 minutes and his position tonight is under no doubt. "Yes. I think he's in a good moment of form and there will be no problem for the game," Capello said. "He's told me he's good. No problems. In the last three days he's trained two days really, really well." Rooney was typically combative in training at the stadium last night, protesting when penalised for a mistimed tackle on Gareth Barry after making a poor pass.
Capello hinted that he is ready to stick with Gary Cahill and John Terry in central defence with Phil Jones now a strong contender to make his England debut in the troublesome right-back position. Terry, who appeared for Chelsea immediately after his mother was arrested for shoplifting in 2009, said tonight's Group G game would give Rooney the distraction he needed after the arrest of his father, his uncle Richie and seven other people, including the Motherwell midfielder Steve Jennings. The arrests follow allegations of a football betting scam relating to Jennings' dismissal for dissent in a match between Motherwell and Hearts last December. "I know the manager's spoken to him and he's totally fine," Terry said. "Wayne's one of the best players in the world and he'll deal with it and go out and perform like he always does on the pitch. He's fine and focused on the game. We all know Wayne, the type of character he is. He'll certainly be OK."
At least four bookmakers reported suspicious betting activity to the Gambling Commission over Jennings' controversial red card. Despite the relatively small amounts of money placed, the case is regarded as an important test of how seriously the Gambling Commission and sporting bodies want to take such issues. Gamblers in Liverpool were among those who placed or attempted to place bets of up to three figures at odds of up to 10-1 on a player being sent off.
Capello passed up the chance to discuss, from his experience in Italy, whether corruption was rife in the game. "Let's speak about the game, please," he said. "Not about corruption or these things. We need to wait... It's a good question, but at this moment, I need to wait to see what the police will find, and no more. Because I can speak about only one thing: I've just found out. We need to wait. If it's one person or a lot of people... I don't know. I'm focused on the game, guys. I'm focused on the game. I don't know."
Capello, who said the decision of which striker to deploy with Rooney was other one which troubles him, responded jovially to questions about the conduct of the England rugby players in New Zealand. "Everything when you win is good, the perfect choice, the best choice - [even] if you drink or go with women. Everything is good if you win. When you lose, it's a disaster."
The manager, who may play Ashley Young behind Rooney in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Barry, rather than Frank Lampard, with Scott Parker anchoring midfield, said he "hoped" the mentality of the players was right, having concluded in the warm-up before the win over Wales that it was not.
Capello confirmed that he has no intention of retiring from his position as and when England progress to Euro 2012. "Because, for me, life is about challenges. And all the games are a challenge. I hope we can speak about it tomorrow. But it's my desire to be the manager at the Euros. Absolutely. I've got a contract."
England fans in for a treat inside the Podgorica City Stadium
The City Stadium in Podgorica holds just 17,000 fans and ahead of England's game tonight €25 tickets were said to be changing hands in the city for up €250, indicating that it will be full to the rafters for tonight's game.
The Montenegro fans are a relaxed bunch – their team could be spotted around town yesterday in bars and cafes without any needed for roped-off VIP areas or overbearing security. However, tonight in the stadium, the atmosphere is expected to be electric as the team, under new manager Branko Brnovic make the push for Euro 2012 qualification in their last two games.
The ground itself is a remnant of the days when Montenegro was part of Yugoslavia, although there have been some concessions to modernity. Bars and shops are built beneath the concrete stands, and the Gorica national park makes for a striking backdrop.
The 1,200 English fans lucky enough to have been allocated a ticket (and a few more paying black market prices) should be in for a treat at one of the most atmospheric small national team stadiums in Europe — provided the England team do not lose.