Fabio Capello laid down the law to his England players at their first meeting on Sunday night and immediately ended the circus around the team hotel by banning the players from inviting visitors there during international duty. That was just one of many new rules established by the new manager as he began his reign with a tone of discipline on and off the pitch.
At yesterday morning's training session, Capello was understood to have been blunt in his assessment of some individuals – and expressed his feelings in English. He also implemented a double training session – the players trained in the morning at Arsenal's London Colney ground and in the evening the squad were taken for a session at Wembley stadium, which marked another break with tradition.
As for tomorrow's line-up to face Switzerland, Capello told them that would be revealed tomorrow before they took the coach to the stadium – as opposed to today – to prevent it being leaked. The squad were also presented with a list of rules laying out what will be expected of them. Using mobile phones around the team hotel is banned. Punctuality is paramount, they have been given a list of times for meals and are to sit down to eat and leave the dining room together.
Rio Ferdinand described his new manager as having as "aura" and the first impressions from within the camp yesterday were of a manager who is determined to take on the under-achieving culture of the team. Speaking in English to his players on Sunday, Capello left them in no doubt that the more indulgent aspects of English football will play no part in his team.
The big change, however, has been the banning of the entourage around the players in their luxury hotel outside Watford. From now on the usual collection of player agents, family members, charity promoters, autobiography ghostwriters and even the occasional hairdresser will not be tolerated. The hotel will be closed down to guests and Capello is even considering basing the team elsewhere: he believes the hotel is too big and difficult to control.
The culture of hangers-on around the squad clashed with Capello's more ascetic notion of preparation. Set amid a golf course near Watford, the five-star team hotel's lobby has, in the past, looked like a who's who of football agents in the run-up to international games. As well as meeting their agents, some players would even invite their hairdresser over for a quick trim on the eve of a game.
A low point was reached when an embarrassing kiss and tell story about Alan Smith appeared in a tabloid newspaper last month. It concerned a liaison with a woman which took place in the team hotel the evening before November's crucial Euro 2008 qualifier against Croatia. Under McClaren's reign, a charity was allowed to bring attractive young women into the hotel to persuade the players to have their photographs taken wearing a T-shirt promoting the cause. Not any more.
The new bootcamp mentality clashes with McClaren's changes when he took over which, as John Terry memorably explained at the time, amounted to permission to wear tracksuits on away trips and access to hotel minibar snacks. Ferdinand said that Capello's natural authority reminded him of Sir Alex Ferguson's regime at Manchester United.
"There's definitely a sense of an aura about him," Ferdinand said. "You command respect with your results. That's what my boss at United has got. He commands respect because of his achievements, his work ethic and the ideals he manages by. That runs throughout the club and that seems to be apparent about this new manager. I've only met him recently but there's definitely a respect for what he's achieved and hopefully he can bring that to us.
"[He has changed] Minor things around the hotel in terms of sitting together, eating and leaving at the same time. Bonding, he thinks, plays a big part in a successful team. You can see ideas of why that is, everybody having to be at breakfast, getting the team together more and spending more time together is probably one of the things.
"He called me 'Ferdinand' and a lot of the other players by their surnames. His coaching staff call us by our surnames as well. That's just the way it is. Maybe it's the different background or what they do on the continent. Carlos Quieroz [Ferguson's assistant] called us by surnames when he joined United. You take it as being part of the different upbringing."
Capello was described by Ferdinand as a "hands-on" manager who played a full part in training sessions yesterday. "He's there in the middle of training and he's full-on," he said. "It's similar to what we do with our clubs, but he's a hands-on manager."
Behind the scenes, there have been changes to the more minor figures in the back room staff. The Chelsea masseur, Billy McCulloch, who was also the squad's court jester, has been told that he is no longer required. Two more long serving masseurs have also departed to be replaced by Paul Small (Liverpool) and Mark Sertori (Newcastle). All backroom positions will be under review after tomorrow's game including the team doctor Leif Sward and head physiotherapist Gary Lewin.
During Sunday's meeting Capello also introduced the players to his assistant Italo Galbiati and, having worked with Capello for most of his career, it has been emphasised that he will be a key figure in the set-up. The issue of the captaincy in the long-term is wide open and Ferdinand, once considered unlikely captaincy material, is now a good bet – providing he observes the rules.
Shaun Wright-Phillips sat out training yesterday because of a long-standing ankle injury and will be assessed today.Reuse content