PODGORICA (AFP) – Fabio Capello is preparing for life without Wayne Rooney after the striker’s dismissal marred England’s successful qualification for Euro 2012.
Rooney was shown a straight red card for violent conduct after aiming a needless and petulant kick at Montenegrin defender Miodrag Dzudovic during England’s 2-2 draw at the Gradski Stadium on Friday.
Rooney’s sending off capped a miserable week for the player following the arrest on Thursday of his father and uncle in connection with allegations of a football betting scam.
But more seriously for Capello, Rooney’s moment of madness means England will kick off their campaign in Poland and Ukraine next summer with their most important player serving a suspension.
Rooney’s red card also reopens all the old question marks about the striker’s temperament, echoing his 2006 World Cup quarter-final dismissal for a similarly reckless foul on Portugal’s Ricardo Carvalho.
An unhappy Capello said Rooney had been guilty of a “silly” mistake, and revealed Friday that he plans to use next month’s friendly against world champions Spain at Wembley as an opportunity to plan for the player’s absence.
“I think all the players are important. But we will find the solution to play without him. We will try something the next game, the next friendly game that we play,” the Italian said.
Capello however defended his decision to play Rooney, just a day after the allegations concerning his relatives had emerged.
“(Rooney) made a silly mistake when he kicked the opponent. And he will not play the first match of the Euros because he’ll be suspended,” Capello said.
“He was not happy because he missed some control and some passes and I think it was for this reason that he kicked the opponent.”
Capello admitted however that Rooney’s behaviour was indefensible.
“It’s a red card. I can’t defend that. I’m not happy. Absolutely. I spoke with him, he made a silly mistake. He said ‘yes, sorry’,” Capello said.
“He’s a really important player, he’s got a lot of experience, he’s played a lot of important games. But it was a silly mistake. What can you do?
“I’ve seen really important players make silly mistakes before. At that moment you can’t understand why this happened.”
And a clearly exasperated Capello admitted he was powerless to rein in Rooney’s temperament once a match got under way.
“I can speak with him before, but there is nothing I can do when he’s playing the game,” he said.
Rooney’s red card and England’s subsequent failure to hang on for victory had looked unlikely earlier in the evening, when well-taken goals from Ashley Young and Darren Bent had fired England into a 2-0 lead after 31 minutes.
However Elsad Zverotic’s goal on the stroke of half-time, capitalising on England’s failure to close him down quickly, threw Montenegro a lifeline and, after Rooney exited, Andrija Delibasic completed the comeback to head home an equaliser at the death.
Capello was anxious to emphasise the positives of the display however.
“I’m really happy. I said well done to the players after the game because the goal was to qualify. This was the most important thing,” he said.
“The first half we played a good game for 35 minutes but in the last 10 minutes we didn’t focus so well. They scored the goal and after that they had the confidence to go forward to try to draw the game.
“It’s been a good experience for us and for the players — to understand that you need to be focused for 90 minutes and not only 35 minutes.
“I hope it will be a good lesson for them.