It certainly – post-Croatia – feels like it and, yesterday, Fabio Capello articulated it. "We hope to start a new era," the England manager said ahead of this afternoon's World Cup qualifier at home to Kazakhstan and although he has been forthright in expressing to the players that they have to forget about the events in Zagreb last month, beyond the collection of three points, it is clear that the Italian himself has greater bounce in his step these days.
It may not have been apparent to all but Capello – Don Fabio, Il Capo, the man of iron will who handled life at Milan, Juventus, Roma, Real Madrid – was feeling the pressure prior to the 4-1 victory over Croatia not least because adapting to life as an international coach was taking some adjusting to after years of day-to-day control of a squad. There was concern that the players were not, quite, getting it and that the squad was unsettled – bored and hungry even – and not sure it was really going to work out under the still relatively new manager. In turn Capello had become a little more tetchy and irritable and even exasperated at how the media was interpreting his work – something he had vowed would never get to him. The draw at home to the Czech Republic in August, and the reaction to it, had annoyed him. If he did not quite feel under siege then those around Capello were certainly acutely aware that he needed a result.
It is ever thus, of course. Every manager, however experienced and successful, requires a moment such as happened in the Maksimir Stadium. But, for Capello, the new challenge is also apparent. He wants to transfer that feeling and performance, that confidence and fearlessness – 'no fear' is one of his favourite phrases – to Wembley starting with a convincing victory over the Kazhaks today. "English football is changing," Capello said yesterday. "There's a different style on the pitch, a different style of training and this is the style of the future." It is a style he is fostering and, with it, comes something else. A different mentality. Or, as he puts it, with another of his pet phrases, a winning mentality and, for Capello England have come a long way since they last played Croatia – at Wembley last November.
"The mentality after we lost the qualification for the Euros, we played with fear," he said of the Steve McClaren regime after which he has had to re-build. "That is the worst thing for the team. We played with fear. The mentality in Italy, Spain is different. Here it has been different especially when you play at home. I said that before Croatia that we play better away."
And with that statement there came a plea. "I think we changed a lot of things in the minds of the fans," he said in reference to the away wins against Andorra and Croatia. "I'm very happy. At this moment, after the first two games for the World Cup qualification, to be here," Capello added of the prospect of a home tie.
"After the Croatia game, we hope we start a new era for the home games at Wembley. And tomorrow we will find that. This will be a very important game and I hope the fans don't boo after 20 minutes if England don't score a goal. This is very important. Don't boo. You have to help us. It's very, very important for the players to play. We have to ask the fans to help us."
With a sold-out stadium and the feeling that the Croatia victory could not have come with better timing – given the mood that the fans were losing interest – and England will undoubtedly be afforded that support. To begin with at least. Such a state of affairs – expectation, under-achievement, pressure – has led to previous managers referring to the post Capello has inherited as 'an impossible job'. "Sure, for me, it's different," he said. "When you work every day, you train every day at a club it's easy to change some errors and rectify mistakes. You can find the right way more easily. For this reason, I think when you are England manager, it's not an easy job because it's a different style, a different mentality. It's a fantastic experience for me and I hope it's not an impossible job. I hope so."Reuse content