Sam Wallace: Capello backs FA's campaign as Beckham returns to the fold
Friday 21 March 2008
Fabio Capello will encourage his England players to embrace the Football Association's new code of respect for match officials ahead of Wednesday's friendly against France.
The England manager, who recalled David Beckham and Theo Walcott to the squad yesterday, will talk to his players about the importance of decorum in their dealings with referees. In keeping with the FA's latest "RESPECT" drive to force players to show more respect to officials, with severe punishments for offenders, Capello will talk to his players at their initial squad meeting either on Sunday night or Monday morning. At the team's first meeting ahead of February's Switzerland friendly he laid down a set of rules for his England players – including the banning of visitors to the team hotel.
Among those listening to Capello at England's Hertfordshire hotel could be three new faces – albeit two of them very familiar. With a combined total of 100 caps, Beckham and Walcott are back in the provisional 30-man England squad and the Middlesbrough defender David Wheater is included for the first time. All three will have to wait to see whether they make the cut for the 23-man squad announced on Saturday night.
The return of Beckham will no doubt mean a clamour around the possibility of him winning his 100th cap although there are no FA preparations for a celebration to mark the occasion in Paris – because Capello has given no guarantees the former captain will play. Yet it would appear that Capello would rather give him some role on Wednesday so the question of Beckham's 100th cap does not plague his team as they begin their qualification for the 2010 World Cup finals in September.
Beckham has always maintained that he does not want his 100th England cap – if it comes – to be his last. Yet he remains a much easier figure for Capello to ignore once he has reached his century. In spite of his single-mindedness, Capello will have taken notice of how the spectre of Beckham loomed over his predecessor Steve McClaren.
The England manager said he has "good reports" on Beckham from the England team's general manager Franco Baldini who watched Beckham play in Dallas on Saturday night. "I know a lot about David Beckham and what he can offer the team," Capello said. Walcott, who last figured in the 2006 World Cup finals squad and has just one cap, should make the cut. Stuart Pearce, the Under-21 coach, had intended to field Walcott against Poland at Molineux on Tuesday so Capello is unlikely to discard him.
Capello said: "Theo Walcott and David Wheater are two good young players who have done very well for the Under-21s this season and when I have seen them play for their clubs. Stuart has a friendly match so it is a good opportunity for us to consider some of the younger players for the senior squad." Cut from the original 30-man squad that Capello picked last month are Ledley King, Emile Heskey, Nicky Shorey and Michael Carrick. Micah Richards and Curtis Davies are both injured. In the case of King, who played against Chelsea on Wednesday night, Capello has decided, having consulted with Juande Ramos, the Spurs captain must overcome the debilitating hip and knee injury problems that have prevented him from playing regularly before he is picked for England again.
Given that the "Big Four" are due to meet on Sunday, Capello is expecting withdrawals. Come Sunday evening he could find himself recalling some who have been deselected on Saturday night. This weekend is sure to be the first time England's celebrated new manager comes up against the player availability problems that have plagued his predecessors.
The selection of Wheater shows that Capello has faith in one of English football's less-heralded new talents. The 21-year-old is regarded by Middlesbrough's academy staff as potentially their best homegrown player yet and he even has more in common with Beckham than the 99-cap superstar realises. Beckham may now live in close proximity to the glamour of Hollywood but Wheater has already made his debut in an Oscar-winning film.
The Middlesbrough centre-back was an extra – he played a British soldier – in the Dunkirk beach scene in the recent film Atonement. It was shot in his hometown of Redcar. He also delivered an impressive acting performance in the Middlesbrough commercial for the club's half-season ticket – a moody black-and-white affair in which he speaks directly to the camera. In his day job, it has been a meteoric rise for Wheater who admitted yesterday that, in August, he thought he may have to return on loan to Darlington where he played 15 games last season. "I did not think I would be in the Middlesbrough first team this year never mind England's provisional squad," he said. "I was at Darlington this time last year and came back to the Premier League and did well. There were a few injuries and I took my chance. It won't change me one bit. I am not getting too excited. The squad gets cut down and I hope to play well on Saturday and get into the final 23. It is a moment to savour."
Wheater's manager Gareth Southgate joked yesterday that the player had embarked on "an open-topped bus ride" to celebrate his call-up. Wheater looks like one of the favourites for the Saturday cut although there is an injury doubt over Rio Ferdinand whom Sir Alex Ferguson will expect to mark Fernando Torres on Sunday. It will be the availability of his senior players that is set to be Capello's biggest test this weekend.
Provisional England squad
James (Portsmouth), Carson (Aston Villa), Kirkland (Wigan)
Bridge (Chelsea), A Cole (Chelsea), Johnson (Portsmouth), Terry (Chelsea), Brown (Man Utd), Lescott (Everton,Ferdinand (Man Utd), Wheater (Middlesbrough), Woodgate (Tottenham), Upson (West Ham)
Barry (Aston Villa), Young (Aston Villa), Bentley (Blackburn), J Cole (Chelsea), Lampard (Chelsea), Wright-Phillips (Chelsea), Beckham (Los Angeles Galaxy), Gerrard (Liverpool), Hargreaves (Man Utd), Downing (Middlesbrough), Jenas (Tottenham)
Walcott (Arsenal), Agbonlahor (Aston Villa), Crouch (Liverpool), Rooney (Man Utd), Owen (Newcastle), Defoe (Portsmouth)
Perfect preparation? David Beckham's matches since England v Croatia
27 November 2007: LA Galaxy v Sydney (a), lost 5-3 (1 goal)
30 November: LA Galaxy v Wellington Phoenix (a), won 4-1 (1 goal)
20 February 2008: LA Galaxy v Gamba Osaka (a), lost 1-0
23 February: LA Galaxy v Sydney (a), won 2-1
29 February: LA Galaxy v Seoul (a), drew 1-1, (lost 2-1 on pens)
3 March: LA Galaxy v Shanghai Hong Kong United (a), won 3-0
9 March: LA Galaxy v Hong Kong Union (a), drew 2-2 (lost 5-2 on pens) (1 goal)
15 March: LA Galaxy v Dallas (a), drew 0-0
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