Capello: 'Everything is fine when you win – if you drink, go with women'
The England manager said yesterday that it does not matter what players get up to off the field
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 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 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 by off-the-field events.
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. They had a chance one-on-one with the goalkeeper [in the World Cup final] but didn't score. But every choice is good when you win. When you lose, it's a disaster. With my teams, as a club manager, we prepared the game against Marseilles in the centre of Munich and lost 1-0. Another time, we were alone outside and won."
It offered the prospect of a strange kind of pact. Does Capello really mean that he would forgive his players the kind of indiscretions committed by the England rugby players, in the most recent of which three of them were forced to apologise for to a hotel cleaner, if they perform at the European Championship?
The ends do not simply justify the means. Of course, the English public want a winning team but not at the cost of them behaving with the kind of stag-party attitude of their rugby counterparts. Of course, they deserve more privacy and leeway than they are sometimes afforded at home but not if they are to behave like the tiresome James Haskell with his video camera.
The problem with Capello was that he was on a roll by then and no amount of attempts at intervention from the man from the FA was going to stop him. Was there not a danger of pursuing the dwarf-throwing and bungee jumping a little too far? "If no one is injured during these things, it will be good," Capello said. "I know very well the rugby players. I was involved for two years with rugby players [at Milan]."
What was it he knew about the rugby players? "The 'third half'. [What they do] after the game, that's really strange. I remember that really well. You know better than me what they do."
There was part of Capello that just got a bit too carried away with the joke yesterday, but also part of him that sees the issue far too simplistically. Having been so heavily criticised for the isolation of the squad's training camp outside Rustenburg in South Africa he has now decided that, if England fail again next summer, he reasons he will be criticised regardless of what he does in Poland so, what the hell. It is not an argument that holds much water.
He conceded that he still has a decision to make at right-back tonight and on who will partner Rooney as a second striker, if that is what he decides to do. He now appears to be leaning towards playing Phil Jones at right-back to counter the threat of Mirko Vucinic, quite a debut for the 19-year-old. In attack it is hard to see him straying from the 4-2-3-1 formation – with Ashley Young behind Rooney – that worked so well in Sofia, but this is Capello so anything is possible.
That Montenegro are resting three players for their game against Switzerland on Tuesday has taken some of the edge off this game. If, by midnight in Podgorica, Capello's team have made it to Euro 2012 he has promised to celebrate with a drink. You just have to hope that he has a rather more sophisticated plan than Johnson managed in New Zealand to get him through next summer.
Results so far England 4-0 Bulgaria, Montenegro 1-0 Wales; Bulgaria 0-1 Montenegro, Switzerland 1-3 England; Montenegro 1-0 Switzerland, Wales 0-1 Bulgaria; England 0-0 Montenegro, Switzerland 4-1 Wales; Bulgaria 0-0 Switzerland, Wales 0-2 England; England 2-2 Switzerland, Montenegro 1-1 Bulgaria; Bulgaria 0-3 England, Wales 2-1 Montenegro; England 1-0 Wales, Switzerland 3-1 Bulgaria.
Remaining fixtures Tonight: Montenegro v England, Wales v Switzerland. Tuesday: Bulgaria v Wales, Switzerland v Montenegro.
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