In the build-up to England’s opening
Another forceful temper within the England squad is that of Head Coach Fabio Capello. However, this is one which the English press have had to gauge from comments made by various players with the Italian tactician always maintaining an icy exterior when in the public eye. This exterior was broken when certain members of the British press were deemed to have overstepped the mark in photographing the changing rooms contained within England’s training camp – the result of which was a tongue lashing usually only reserved for underperforming players.
These two incidents taken together have lead many reports to take the view the pressure currently felt within the England camp is getting to two of its most valuable components. Memories of Rooney’s fate in Germany four years ago remain fresh in the minds of all England fans and presumably of those officials set to participate in this summer’s tournament. This is an issue which has again been thrown into the media spotlight following the comments made by referee Jeff Selogilwe which have reportedly led the Brazilian officials in charge of Saturday’s match to study a list of 20 English expletives likely to be used by players. It should of course be remembered this list will apply to both teams but it is hard to ignore the impact this may have on Rooney. If FIFA decides to take a hard line on ill discipline Rooney and England may pay a heavy price.
Rooney’s temperament is a double-edged sword which must effectively be managed by Capello. It is important to note Emile Heskey’s comments following Rooney’s performance on Monday as it is clear the feeling within the camp the Manchester United man brought an increased spark and purpose to proceedings. An angry Rooney can often be inspirational, as he was when smashing a stunning volley into the top corner seconds after berating the referee in a Premier League match against Newcastle United. Managing this temperament and getting the best out of Rooney is a task which Capello and England backroom staff such as Stuart Pearce will have to get right if England are to achieve anything in South Africa.
This brings in the question of how Capello is coping with the huge pressure of leading England into a World Cup and whether his outburst is the start of cracks appearing. Reports have suggested Capello showed weakness in his actions but others have simply put it down to a feeling within the camp Saturday’s game cannot come quick enough. Capello has had his players together for three weeks now, the longest time in his tenure, and it may be the case the Italian and his players just want to get going, feeling the frustrations of knowing the job in hand but as yet not able to influence the fate of the competition.
For the sake of the potential success of the England team it remains imperative Capello is on his game as much as Rooney is. A lot of England’s hopes depend upon whether Rooney can translate his stunning form this season onto the world stage but it is just as important Capello gets certain key decisions right – arguably the most important of these being who starts in goal against the United States. Following Rob Green’s inability to really prove himself at this level, Joe Hart’s poor distribution on Sunday and David James tendency to make a crucial mistake there is little certainty surrounding who will be tasked with the job. Whoever is handed the task, Capello must make sure he is 100% behind his final decision as any form of goalkeeping error could prove catastrophic in a World Cup campaign. Similar uncertainty exists surrounding how the loss of Gareth Barry will be compensated for in this encounter. Whether the much maligned partnership of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard will again be given another World Cup opportunity or whether Capello has an ace up his sleeve will become apparent come Saturday’s match. The Italian has stated he knows what his starting XI will be come this opening encounter, however, he is playing the cards close to his chest.
These are all questions Capello will have been trying to answer in the training sessions while in South Africa and it is essential he gets these key decisions right from the off. Just as an act of ill discipline may cost England dear so will a poor managerial decision at a crucial time. There is no doubt both Rooney and Capello represent aspects of the world class core of the England set up – now is the time for this to be realised on the biggest stage.