From Theo Walcott's memoirs we learn that Fabio Capello is not famous for buttering up youngsters.
But of Phil Jones, 19, the England coach says contentedly: "So young, so good. He's never played with the national team but he's the future – absolutely the future."
The dramatic impact made by Jones, a £17m signing from Blackburn, in Manchester United's 3-0 win against Spurs on Monday night extended to the normally muted Capello, who is excited by the emergence of Jones, Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley in Sir Alex Ferguson's starting XI. Even allowing for early season hype (Welbeck will probably return to the bench when Javier Hernández is fit), Capello speaks of a surge of fresh energy as England prepare for their Euro 2012 qualifiers against Bulgaria in Sofia on Friday night and Wales on Tuesday week.
"Jones is really a talent for England," Capello says. "Welbeck, [Chris] Smalling, Jones, the midfielder [Cleverley]. All these players are playing really good. After the game they played against Man City [in the Community Shield] they've improved. It's easier to play away from home, without the pressure of the fans. Against Spurs they played with confidence."
Welbeck, 20, and Jones have been selected for England's Under-21s but could be named in the senior squad after United's Premier League encounter with Arsenal, along with Cleverley, 22, and Smalling, 21, who made a favourable impression on Capello at right-back against Spurs. "I need to wait for the last game because someone will be injured but in the provisional squad there are a lot of Man Utd players," he says.
"Welbeck played against Ghana for 10 minutes [in March] and was very interesting. He matched well with Rooney: his movement without the ball. He made some mistakes, missed a lot of passes, but he's an interesting player.
"The other one who's improving, in a new position, is Smalling. He plays without fear. I remember him as a centre-back but now he's a right-back, which is very interesting. Cleverley is good. I saw him last year [on loan at Wigan] but when you play for Man Utd it's different. You need to win, that's the difference.
"I picked him last time but he was unlucky because he didn't play against Holland [that match was postponed because of the London riots]. He's intelligent on the pitch, he can play in front of the back four or a bit further forward. And always when he goes to the goal he tries to shoot."
Jones, though, is the most highly praised of United's latest crop: "The way he played against Tottenham, every time, passing, with confidence. 'Give me the ball.' It's not easy to find a player so young who plays with such big confidence. We need to wait though. He's played one game [for United], and a half at Wembley. Potentially, he's a fantastic player, but he needs to play more games at Man Utd.
"I remember [Arsenal's] Jack Wilshere, after four months, was at the top, I understood he was ready to play for the national team. Jones is the same. I don't know if he will be OK for the Bulgaria or Montenegro games, but the talent is incredible, and when you have the talent you need to use it."
Capello was at Aston Villa v Wolves on Saturday to watch Darren Bent. "I've got Welbeck, Andy Carroll, Bent and Defoe [plus Wayne Rooney]," he says of his strikers. "I need to choose the players who are in the best form. Not the name, the form. You need to run, you need to press – do something different.'
In midfield he also speaks highly of Tottenham's Jake Livermore and Arsenal's Emmanuel Frimpong, Ghana-born but eager to represent England. Capello says he will not pick Frimpong solely to render him ineligible for Ghana but is keen to promote him. "He's really energetic. Sometimes he needs to be careful. If he plays for a short time with Arsenal I will select him. Another young midfielder is the one who plays with Tottenham [Livermore]. We have some young midfielders coming."
Steven Gerrard has told Capello he will be out for three more weeks, while Wilshere is four weeks away from reclaiming his Arsenal place. In the meantime, England have risen, risibly, to No4 in Fifa's world rankings. "I was happy," Capello says, suppressing his mirth. "The No1 is Holland, who've never won the World Cup. They've played in three finals and lost three finals."
The qualifying end-game is England's trip to Montenegro on 7 October. "It will be a difficult game in Montenegro. I spoke with [Giovanni] Trapattoni [the Republic of Ireland manager], who played there," Capello says. "He told me it will be no easy game: the stadium, the pitch, the fans will be really, really strong."
Pressed on Walcott's book, in which the Arsenal forward claimed Capello threatened to "kill" him if he cut inside with the ball again, and portrayed him as a martinet, the England coach says: "It was a joke. He didn't understand the joke." But irritation is still apparent. "When I speak with the players at the start of the season I always say: 'The rule is, I'm the manager, you're the players. I respect you, and you need to respect me and all the staff working with me'."
So what did he say to Walcott? "I told him: 'I prefer you as a player than as a writer'."
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