London, Feb 5: It seems as if Fabio Capello effect has began to materialise in England team. England's players trotted out last night on to the turf at Wembley where they had been humbled and humiliated by Croatia barely three months ago but, even if the nightmarish memory of that November night still sends shivers down the spine, already the mood is unrecognisable.
The national team have their new era. Where training sessions would recently ring out to playful cries of "Wazza", "JT" and "Stevie G" bellowed by cheery members of the management as they too participated in the keepy-uppies and rat-a-tat box routines, now the barked orders referred to players by their surnames.
Capello stood stern and focused here, casting his eye through designer frames over a group anxious to impress before tomorrow's friendly with Switzerland. There is new-found distance between hierarchy and squad.
Rio Ferdinand reflected upon Capello's first full day with his players as akin to "going to a new school". "Everyone is excited to see what the new ideas are going to be and if they're any different to what we've been taught before," he said. "We're intrigued to see what different tactics and methods will be given to us by the new management. He's there in the middle of training and he's full-on, a hands-on manager in every respect."
He may also appear cold and aloof, and that may not be a bad thing. England's players had convened at their usual Hertfordshire hotel on Sunday evening and, although there was a brief introductory meeting with Capello and his backroom staff that night, yesterday marked the first day of real work under the new regime. Members of the Football Association also staying at The Grove admitted that they had never seen the entire squad reassemble so punctually for breakfast. There is a clear desire to impress.
Capello called the squad together for a team meeting yesterday morning in which he laid out his basic footballing philosophies, the players hushed in his presence. "There's an aura about him," said Ferdinand. "You command respect with your results. That's what my boss at Manchester United has got. He commands respect because of his achievements, his work ethic and the ideals he manages by. That runs through the club and that seems to be apparent in the way this new manager is, too. I've only known him a couple of days but there's definitely a respect for what he's achieved.
"Look at his CV. He has been successful wherever he has been - in different countries, coaching some of the best players in the world. You want to suck up as much information and knowledge as you can. What he tells you, a lot of it is from experience. He has been there, seen it and done it. You can only try and take in what he says. You want to be coached by people who have been successful and have the knowhow to win things. The more we take in, the bigger chance we have of becoming a successful team."
That was not meant as a criticism of the previous manager, Steve McClaren, but the implication lingered anyway. There were two training sessions yesterday -at London Colney, then Wembley - with an air of the workmanlike to each. One of the last sessions before the fateful game against the Croats had ended with a "crossbar challenge". Those days are clearly long gone.
Joe Cole and Wayne Rooney had been the first to emerge on to the Wembley pitch in the evening, followed by the rest of the squad - apart from Shaun Wright-Phillips, who was rested as a precaution - alongside the fitness coach Massimo Neri, the goalkeeping coach Franco Tancredi and Italo Galbiati. The last laid out the cones before Capello emerged, in tracksuit and Diadora boots, not England-endorsed Umbro, to summon the squad together in the centre circle, addressing them in English before dismissing them to their warm-up routines.
Capello then watched from afar, sharing a quick word with Sir Trevor Brooking and his general manager, Franco Baldini, on the touchline. Once the fitness drills had been concluded he was more involved. "His English has been surprisingly good," added Ferdinand. "He gets his point across well, along with the other members of his coaching staff, and we've done a mixture of things. We went out there and worked hard."