Fabio Capello was "exactly what England needed" to revive their fortunes, according to Frank Lampard. The experienced coach was appointed after the Three Lions, under the guidance of Steve McClaren, failed to qualify for UEFA EURO 2008.
Thereafter, England have won all their qualifiers for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ ahead of Wednesday's latest test against Ukraine at Wembley. Moreover, they have lost just twice in friendlies, against France and European champions Spain.
Chelsea and England midfielder Lampard said Capello had arrived at just the right time. "Looking back I think Fabio Capello was exactly what we needed as a manager. One of the reasons for that is that he will do exactly what he thinks," Lampard told reporters at a news conference.
"Experience tells him the way to do it. For starters he picks each squad on merit, on how you are playing for your clubs. He picks each team that way as well," he added. "It's very important that as players we all accept that. There is never a question.
"He has a got very strong aura about him. I think everyone, the players, the public and the press, have all bought into it. Every top manager probably has that feeling, a confidence in their own ability. Especially in the England job, it's very important because you can be affected by the press and public opinion.
"It can be very strong. In England, we all know how much of a microscope there is on England," said Lampard, who explained that Capello's strength of character was similar to that of Jose Mourinho, his former manager at Chelsea.
"All the top managers have that confidence. Mourinho certainly did and Capello does. He will make his own decisions in terms of subs and every day on the training ground. It is a very important part of being a top manager."
Although England's 4-0 friendly win over Slovakia on Saturday at Wembley was marred by injuries to forwards Emile Heskey, Peter Crouch and Carlton Cole, Capello refused to yield to the clamour for Newcastle United's Michael Owen to be called up as a replacement, and instead opted for Darren Bent. The former Liverpool and Real Madrid striker may be in sight of Bobby Charlton's England record of 49 goals, having scored 40 in his 89 internationals, but he has spent much of the time since Capello took charge on the sidelines through injury.
He only recently returned from an ankle problem and Capello said: "I have to choose players to play against the Ukraine, not against history. It is impossible to choose someone who has only played for 20 minutes (against Hull)."
Lampard said such comments were typical of Capello's approach to all England players. "There are a lot of quality players out there. Michael Owen, no doubt, is one of the best strikers to play for England, he's got unbelievable ability. But when it comes down to any individual Capello has shown us more than anyone it's about whether you fit, first and foremost, and ready to be playing in an England team.
"Michael Owen has been injured for a long time. I don't know what his fitness levels are but for me it's understandable, and I'm sure he'd say the same himself, that he's not ready. I'm sure when Michael Owen is fit and playing well and his form is good, just the same as whether I am or whether Wayne Rooney is or whether anyone is, if you deserve to be in the England squad you will be there."