' Statistics and Data Are Cold. I Look into the Eyes of a Player. That's the Way to Understand His Mind '; as He Prepares to Enter a World Cup Year, England Coach Fabio Capello Speaks to ESPN's Ray Stubbs in an Exclusive Interview. Here the Italian - in Improving English - Reveals His Burning Ambition to Emulate 1966 Legend Sir Alf Ramsey
Ray Stubbs: What has been the highlight of your year? Fabio Capello: I'm very happy because England have improved a lot. Step by step, we have emerged. The spirit of the group is better now, a lot of the players want to stay with us (in the squad) and that is important for a manager, to have the right desire.
The spirit is good, the performances are of a high standard. That has improved, especially at Wembley. When I became coach, the first matches there were not good. Everyone remembered what had happened when the team failed to qualify for the European Championship. It hurt the players, the fans, the journalists.
After we won 4-1 in Croatia, the confidence returned. Then we started to play at Wembley like we were playing away from home.
RS: Was there a moment when you thought, 'They've got it!'?
FC: After the win in Zagreb. We were not at our very best but I could see the difference this made. It was a big step forward. It was the win that killed the ghosts.
It wasn't easy to overcome the failure but the result in Croatia made the difference.
RS: When you look at the quality of the players, Wayne Rooney is very important, isn't he?
FC: When I first met Rooney, I told him: 'You are one of the best players in the world.' But he was too much in the channels or centre midfield. He was not close enough to the goal, Rooney was not in front of the goal!
So I told him: 'You have to get in front of the goal.' After two games, he understood. Yes, he is very important for us.
RS: Do you talk to the players when you are not together as a group? Have you, for instance, spoken to Rio Ferdinand, who has had bad injuries this season?
FC: Yes, I spoke to Rio last night.
RS: He's had a back injury for some time, so how is he now?
FC: He is good, he is confident. He says he will be back for January 15. He was really happy and said he had no pain. This is good news. Now he has to train and come back and play.
RS: You have said that fitness will be important in the World Cup and that England must be prepared.
So will you take a big squad to a training camp, so that you can assess them yourself?
FC: No. When we go to Austria for our training camp, I will take 28 players. I don't know if the players who may play in the Champions League final will be fit then, but I will decide the final 23-man squad from this group of 28, 10 days before the World Cup.
RS: What happens to the five who are left out? That is always a difficult time, for the players and the coach.
FC: All 28 players can stay with us in South Africa if they want. The decision will be theirs. They will make the decision.
RS: To help you make decisions like this, do you use the data available? Are you a coach who relies on ProZone and statistics to tell you about the capability of your players?
FC: We prepare everything. We check everything, but you have to understand that an experienced manager needs also to use his eyes. Statistics and data are cold. A manager needs to look into the eyes of his player and understand his mind.
RS: So much has changed in the game but what else do you have to take into account?
FC: The balls. It is the biggest change. You see so many more goals scored from long range and you will see even more in the World Cup, so many more goals from long distance. …