An incident between David Beckham and Fabio Capello left the England national team stars believing the Italian manager was “a d*******.”
Capello was a controversial choice to succeed Steve McClaren, given he had limited grasp of the English language and his appointment coming so soon after fellow foreigner Sven-Goran Eriksson’s underachieving tenure.
However, he moved quickly to bring superstar Beckham back into the fold after his scarce involvement under McClaren.
Yet it was a clash with the then-LA Galaxy star which caused disbelief inside the England dressing room, as goalkeeper Ben Foster recalled on his podcast.
Recalling the atmosphere at the time, Foster said: “It wasn’t a particularly happy place. He was a very strict manager.
“I’ve got a few stories, but here’s one. David Beckham was in the England squad at the time and we were playing at Wembley… I can’t remember the game.
“It was before the warm-up. You normally get into the changing room about an hour and a half before kick-off, you go out for warm-up about 40 minutes before kick-off.
“You’ve got another 45 minutes before where you’re getting your kit on, getting a rub, doing some stretching.
“In the Wembley changing rooms there’s space everywhere, there’s space to burn.
“Becks was in there playing two-touch with someone, I don’t remember who. He was doing this two-touch and keeping it up, and Capello just bowled in, he always had a cob on basically, a moody face.
“He walked straight in the middle of these two players, took the ball and just walked off with it.
“It was as if to say ‘this is the changing rooms. Stop d***ing about.’
“Everyone was watching it thinking ‘this is David Beckham. He’s just nicked the ball off David Beckham.’
“I understand being strict, but that makes everyone look at you and think ‘what a d*******. Why’d you bother doing that?'”
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The story perhaps goes some way to explaining why England never really performed under Capello’s management. .
During his spell in charge, whilst England were successful qualifying for subsequent major tournaments, they were eliminated at the hands of Germany in the 2010 World Cup before his abrupt resignation following the FA’s decision to strip John Terry of the captaincy.
England have come a long way since, with Gareth Southgate’s men now preparing for their second fixture of October’s international break as they welcome Hungary to Wembley on Tuesday.
After a comfortable 5-0 victory over Andorra, England remain on course to qualify and sit top of their group by four points.
Hungary will no doubt prove a stern test, but the Three Lions will be confident of collecting the win after beating them so convincingly in Budapest in the fixture between the nations last month.