As England shapes up for an international friendly against the Czech Republic Wednesday, Middlesbrough winger Stewart Downing has praised new manager Fabio Capello for turning the England squad into a meritocracy. That is, he's more confident that he'll be picked under Capello than he would have been under predecessor Steve McClaren.
Downing, who also played under McClaren when the former England boss was in charge at Middlesbrough, said that "in the past I always felt that the team was picked before we met up. But I don't think there are any automatic choices any more and it doesn't matter who you play for; if you are good enough you will get in."
The forward said he felt that players from teams involved in the Champions League were automatically favored, but now Capello "is very fair." He called the set-up under Capello "very professional ... and that is the way it should be," dismissing talk at unhappiness and even fear among players over Capello's rules and regulations. "I wouldn't say its frightening, it's an atmosphere of respect. It's not like a boarding school, it's enjoyable and the coach will have banter with you. His English is fairly good -- better than what you might think from watching him on the telly."