Fabio Capello said yesterday that the misdemeanours in the private lives of England's top players were a result of them having too much money, too young and admitted that he had never before in his career faced a problem like the John Terry scandal.
England play their first game since Terry was stripped of the captaincy tonight against Egypt at Wembley with Capello having conceded that the lavish Premier League lifestyle of the top earners does affect their behaviour. The England manager said of his players: "They have to be an example to the children, for all the fans. For that reason, they have to be careful all the time and make sacrifices in their lives. Young players, young boys, rich boys – this is the problem."
Although Capello said that the culture of excess was a problem "in Italy, in Germany, in Spain, in every country where football is so important", he did say that he had never encountered anything quite like the scandal over Terry's alleged affair with Vanessa Perroncel, the ex-fiancée of Wayne Bridge.
Capello said: "I remember in Spain sometimes, one player went to the disco to have a drink, but [I] did not have big problems between different players, different girls, different women. I think the next three months will be OK for all the [England] players."
That is Capello's hope, although he knows that he has to take it on trust. He has made something of a rod for his own back with pronouncements over the behaviour he expects in the private lives of England footballers, especially with the stories around Ashley Cole's behaviour that have contributed to the recent breakdown in his marriage.
Asked whether any player having an affair – with a team-mate's ex or not – could face sanctions, the England manager preferred to sidestep the issue. "Please, this is the private life and we have [yet] to decide everything about what really will happen."
Capello said that he believed it was not too much to ask the players to behave themselves. "I think it's normal for me [to expect certain standards of behaviour]. This is my idea. It's normal life for a sportsman, for the players. You have to be careful at every moment in your life, no?"
There was a slight concern over the fitness of Wayne Rooney last night, after he bore the brunt of a heavy tackle from James Milner during training yesterday and sat out the shooting practice at the end of the session.
Like Rooney on Monday, Capello also called on the England fans not to boo Terry at Wembley tonight – the Chelsea captain will be starting, as well as Theo Walcott on the right. Robert Green is expected to start in goal, with Capello eager to demonstrate to the West Ham goalkeeper, who has started six games in a row before his red card against Ukraine in October, that he has confidence in him. Despite Joe Hart's recent good form, Capello is minded to play Green, who was suspended for the last World Cup qualifier against Belarus and missed out to Ben Foster in the friendly against Brazil in Qatar in November. The England manager also questioned whether Hart, who has one cap earned almost two years ago against Trinidad & Tobago, is sufficiently experienced yet to start. "Joe Hart is young," he said. "He is too young."
Capello disclosed eight of tonight's starting XI, omitting the goalkeeper, left-back and strike partner for Rooney. He will watch a DVD of Egypt's Africa Cup of Nations performances this morning with members of his back-room staff before finalising his choices. It is anticipated that Leighton Baines will start at left-back and Emile Heskey in attack with Rooney.
Steven Gerrard will captain England tonight, with Frank Lampard his deputy should England be so careless as to lose three captains in the space of one month. Gerrard said yesterday that the players accepted their responsibility as "mature individuals" and that the events around Terry's rift with Bridge had not caused any problems around the team hotel. He said: "We know each other inside out now. We've had enough time under Fabio now to realise what the manager wants from us. The last couple of days, the team spirit and togetherness has not been affected. Everyone's been as one."
Capello said that he had been given assurances that new captain Rio Ferdinand could recover from his back injury to play in the World Cup finals this summer. "I went to Manchester, I met him [Ferdinand] and I spoke with Sir Alex [Ferguson] and I know exactly what happened. I spoke with David Gill [Manchester United chief executive] at Wembley. He told me it's not the same problem. I hope he will be fit in a short time. Also, he needs to play. Only when you play games can you find good form."