Fabio Capello has warned Wayne Rooney that he must learn to keep his temper under control, with the England manager even joking in front of the squad that Rooney was a "crazy man" for punching a corner flag at Craven Cottage on Saturday. Capello also warned his players that he expects their behaviour to be exemplary on and off the field.
The Italian spoke to Rooney during the first training session on Tuesday accusing him – in his less than perfect English – of being a "crazy, crazy man" for his outburst after his sending-off against Fulham at the weekend. It is understood that the players were reduced to laughter at Capello's take on Rooney's behaviour, but that it was intended to have a serious point nonetheless.
Capello has been alarmed by Rooney's tendency to lose his cool and admitted last May that he told the player to calm down at half-time of the friendly against the United States after two dreadful challenges by Rooney. The Manchester United striker was given a second yellow card at Fulham for throwing the ball at the referee Phil Dowd as United's players lined up for a free-kick. On his way off the pitch Rooney punched a corner flag.
As for the rest of the players, it was pointed out to them by Capello that playing for England requires them to be on their best behaviour even when they are not on the pitch.
It was the first time Capello had seen Steven Gerrard since he was involved in an incident in a Southport nightclub that led to charges of assault and affray, the assault charge having subsequently been dropped. It was also Ashley Cole's first England camp since his arrest and £70 fine for swearing at police officers outside a nightclub this month. Capello did not refer to either incident in his speech to the players, speaking in more general terms about behaviour. The England manager did have a long private talk with Cole during training on Tuesday, but it is understood that this conversation was not related to Cole's arrest. Capello considers that matter closed because the player was fined by Chelsea and the incident did not take place during an international week. As for Rooney, he has been told before to rein in his tackles during training. The England manager is well aware that Rooney's temper probably cost one of his predecessors, Sven Goran Eriksson, a place in the semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup when the player was sent off against Portugal for stamping on Ricardo Carvalho.
The England players did a single training session behind closed doors yesterday and in their team shape deployed Steven Gerrard on the left side of midfield. The role that Capello chooses for the Liverpool captain against Slovakia on Saturday – and the World Cup qualifier against Ukraine on Wednesday – is considered pivotal as to how he sees the player's future. The left side is where Gerrard worked so successfully against Belarus in the World Cup qualifier in October, the last time that he played for England.
Although Gerrard began that game on the left, which was also where his defensive responsibilities were concentrated, he drifted into the centre when England were in possession. The player himself said on Tuesday that he was playing in his "favourite position" for Liverpool, just behind the striker Fernando Torres. It would appear that Capello is not yet prepared to play Gerrard in that role for England.
The big decisions for the England manager are in goal, where he may choose Ben Foster ahead of David James, and on the right side of midfield, where Aaron Lennon is a strong candidate to start ahead of David Beckham. Capello will also have to decide whether he sticks with Michael Carrick or brings back Frank Lampard. Rooney, despite Capello's reservations about his temper, should return to the team to partner Emile Heskey.
Heskey said yesterday that England had to recapture the spirit of their last qualifier against Belarus on 15 October. "We just want to keep going, we know the importance of every game and we know we have to play with 100 per cent commitment. It does feel a long time ago [against Belarus], but with the lads coming back together we very quickly form that unity again. We can work on things this week and the manager has things in his mind for us to focus on.
"Getting my 50th cap against Belarus was one of the biggest memories of my career. Getting 50 caps for your country is a great achievement and a great honour as well. The shirt I wore has a '50 caps' at the bottom so I've got that framed and the lads got a montage printed of my games and signed it so that was very special."
Matthew Upson said that Capello had warned his players they could not make the same mistakes as they did against Spain in the 2-0 defeat last month. "The 10-day get-togethers are the only real time you get a bit of rhythm and routine in the training sessions," Upson said. "It's important that we focus and concentrate almost as if we were playing."
Peter Crouch missed training yesterday with a calf problem but is expected to take part today. Shaun Wright-Phillips (ankle) should also be fit to train.Reuse content