England's injury anxieties persisted yesterday when Steven Gerrard failed to complete the squad's latest high-altitude training session at Irdning in the Austrian Alps after suffering a calf twinge.
Gerrard, who may be asked to fill a central midfield role if, as expected, Gareth Barry is not fit face the United States on 12 June, pulled up before the end of the session, underwent some treatment on the calf, then sat out the reminder of the workout before a short jog to stretch the affected leg. It is understood that Gerrard will train again today, but the scare does illustrate the delicate balance the England manager, Fabio Capello, is seeking to strike between good preparation and over-exertion. The striker Wayne Rooney disclosed earlier this week that he had been told not to over-exert himself.
Capello provided his first firm hint that Barry's recuperation is well ahead of expectations and that he will travel to South Africa. "The tests and scans... say that his ankle is doing well, much better than what we had thought. Most importantly, it looks as if the recovery times will be much shorter. We'll wait until the end of this week, then we'll decide if Barry will or won't play in the World Cup, but we are very hopeful," he told Sky Italia. But the manager was less forthcoming about his own future, passing up the chance to distance himself from the Internazionale manager's position yesterday, and indicating only that he would abide by his order to his players not to be distracted by transfer talk.
"I don't want to talk about these things, I don't read the papers," said Capello who, unwittingly or not, is in some way enhancing his reputation by keeping the story alive. "I've asked that my players are not distracted by transfer market interferences during our preparation for the World Cup, and that applies to me as well." Reports from Italy suggest that Inter are understood to be ready to pay Capello £9m a year, though there is a belief that the club's owner, Massimo Moratti, may be using Capello as a smokescreen to secure an alternative target.
Capello tried to shift the focus from Rooney, who appeared frustrated by the hype associated with the England build-up earlier this week, by insisting that the striker alone could not affect the course of events. "I do not believe that a player can make the difference, even if he's as important as Rooney, who gets everyone behind him," Capello said. "It is the team which wins, particularly in a World Cup. The most important thing, it's the group, the togetherness. Yes, Rooney has not scored lately [he has one goal in seven games for England] but all he does in training gives me maximum comfort, because he has recovered 100 per cent."
Capello said that his English charges were more focused than those he has worked with in Italy and Spain. "My England players have a different attitude. They train very well and eagerly, really determined. They are far less capricious on the pitch than others. Besides they are very good technically; they know how to stay on the pitch."