Fabio Capello has restored the feelgood factor to England after only a year in charge but his players have revealed the hardline approach behind the dramatic improvement.
Just 12 months ago English football was at its lowest ebb for a decade as Steve McClaren's ignominious reign as national team coach culminated in failure to qualify for Euro 2008.
Capello's appointment as McClaren's successor was greeted with optimism but the Italian initially struggled to revitalise a squad which had grown increasingly cynical about international duty.
By the time England were booed off after a friendly against the Czech Republic in August, it seemed certain that nothing would change under Capello.
Yet his single-minded approach and rigourous work-ethic have gradually established a previously absent sense of purpose in the England camp and results have followed.
Four successive wins gave England their best start to a World Cup qualifying campaign and Wednesday's 2-1 win over Germany with a string of reserves in the team maintained the positive feeling around the team.
England captain John Terry believes the key to Capello's success is his refusal to accept anything but the highest standards in training and matches.
“He's given the team a few bollockings and more so in training,” Terry said. “We definitely got a kick up the backside on Tuesday. We weren't playing too well, the ball kept running out of play and we were looking at each other.
“He looked at me a couple of times as if to say, 'Sort it out.' He keeps everyone on their toes and at the top of their game.
“The manager is straightforward. When he has something to say, he says it and doesn't beat around the bush.
“In training and after the game he says his piece. He gets it across really clearly. Early on he took his time and yet he's worked hard on his English and tactically he's spot on. He's very good on the training pitch.”
Terry believes Capello's attention to detail played an important role in puncturing the egos of players who may have felt they didn't need to work hard once they made the England squad.
“We've evolved brilliantly under the manager from day one,” he said. “In our first and second games we got caught on the counter-attack and he showed us a video, slowed the video down and told us we weren't working hard enough for each other. People were running past us and it was disappointing to watch.
“After we saw that, we knew we had to work a lot harder for each other. The quality has always been there, but if you have the workrate to match, we'll have a good future.
“You're looking at a different side now from 12 months ago. It's been a good year, but myself and the more experienced lads will make sure we all keep our feet on the ground.”
England goalkeeper David James has no doubt that Capello has been the perfect antidote to the lethargy that set in under McClaren.
“We started a small-sided game and after about three minutes he called it to a halt and told us it was all wrong,” James said. “He sees it, he says it and he tells you what's wrong, no matter who you are.
“He's not a shouter or a quiet one. It's a steely glare and you take it as read that you need to change it. His English isn't the best, but he says what he means and the beauty of it is that there's no ambiguity. That's what we've needed.”
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!