We have never done so much work on tactics, says Crouch

Striker's footwear faux pas serves as sharp reminder of focus demanded during life under Capello
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The Independent Football

Peter Crouch won the prize for the first ticking off of England's World Cup build up this week when Fabio Capello spotted him wearing a pair of slippers around the team hotel in Austria and told the Spurs striker in no uncertain terms that they were not acceptable kit.

For Crouch, it was just a bit of bad luck - his luggage had not yet arrived which meant he had no trainers and, unsurprisingly, no one had a spare pair that fitted him. But the point was made – over three weeks before England face the United States in their first game of the tournament on 12 June – that life is very serious around Capello's squad.

Unlike previous pre-tournament getaways, there have been no invites for the families as well, up in the thin air of the mountain town of Irdning in the Austrian Alps. This time it is all about business and the players seems to like it. The discipline is in the small details in the hope that if they are accounted for, then the bigger issues will take care of themselves.

"We're just working hard as we would do under the previous management," Crouch said. "There was probably a lot more free time [in the past]. Sven [Goran Eriksson] was a lot more laid-back. Everyone was saying that. This time the atmosphere seems a lot more serious, a lot more focused. I'd have to agree with that.

"We've always done tactical work but this manager is probably the most tactical I have worked for. Organisation is a key thing for him and having worked for a lot of managers before I've always felt that in matches you can always tell the ones who work on the tactical stuff. You're more organised."

Crouch is a veteran of the 2006 World Cup, indeed he feels that one of his best ever games for his country was the last tournament match England played against Portugal in Gelsenkirchen four years ago. Owen Hargreaves traditionally gets the plaudits for that game but it was Crouch, who led the line on his own after Wayne Rooney's red card, who helped England stay in the game.

The 2006 World Cup was, of course, the WAG World Cup and with a famous fiancée, the model Abi Clancy, Crouch is one of those who cops it when it comes to the question of the England team entourage. This time there will be no such distractions under Capello, although you very much get the impression that is how the players want it anyway.

"I would like to see my girlfriend but we have got four weeks to try to achieve something massive that would be with you for the rest of your life," Crouch said. "We could all cope with not seeing our loved ones for that long if it's an opportunity to win a World Cup.

"I don't disagree with them [WAGs] being out but if they're going to be photographed and there's a big circus about it – there's only four weeks at a World Cup so you might as well just leave them at home."

With 20 goals in 37 caps for England, Crouch is probably the most prolific international striker at this tournament who does not expect to start games for his side, but that always seems to be the way with him, even with Capello appearing to lose faith in Emile Heskey. His stock answer is that he is proud of his record and just hopes that it will be enough to earn him a place in the team.

He did joke that he was glad the launch of the "Capello Index", the Italian's bizarre announcement that he was fronting an online rating index for his own players, has been postponed until after the World Cup. "It's probably a good thing for me," Crouch said. "Anyway, I only look at the marks when I've had a good game. I'm not joking."

Tall Story

Peter Crouch holds an enviable scoring record for England, having registered 20 goals in 37 appearances.

*He made his debut in a 3-2 win over Colombia in New Jersey in May 2005, and scored his first goal on his fifth appearance, against Uruguay at Anfield in March 2006. He hit a hat-trick against Jamaica three months later.

*Under Fabio Capello the forward has featured 13 times (although 10 came from the bench), scoring six goals.