MANCHESTER - The headlines of "flop" and "clueless" were as familiar to England players on Sunday as manager Fabio Capello's reasoning that fatigue was to blame for another below-par showing.
England had been trailing by two goals before recovering to draw 2-2 at home to Switzerland on Saturday in a Euro 2012 qualifier with Capello saying his side lacked energy, echoing his explanation for last year's miserable World Cup showing.
This time, the Italian had given his players time to go on holiday and said they had returned "happy" and as excited as "children" to be playing again but the end result was the same as British media derided another England lacklustre performance.
"The problem is always the energy. The Swiss players were fresher than ours," Capello told reporters.
"In the last 10 minutes we had some players without energy. It is a difficult time of the year to play a match like this."
The Wembley match came two weeks after the end of the Premier League season and a week after the Champions League Final where Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand was the only Saturday starter to feature in the 3-1 defeat by Barcelona.
England were without first-choice striker Wayne Rooney, who was suspended and who tweeted that he had used the time off to have a hair transplant, and injured Jermain Defoe, but Capello's concern was over tiredness rather than missing players.
A year ago when England's poor World Cup displays ended in a second-round thumping by Germany, the manager had also said his players were tired.
This week he said he had learnt lessons from the experiences in South Africa and that was why he had given his players time off now and also planned to give them up to two weeks off before next year's European Championship if they qualified.
Qualification is far from certain, with England lucky still to be top of Group G after their cause was helped by Montenegro being held 1-1 by Bulgaria on Saturday. England are level on 11 points with the Montenegrins.
While captain John Terry said tiredness could be no excuse for the way his team played against Switzerland, the manager's words were the ones grabbing the media spotlight.
"Clueless Fabio is flaking it," wrote the News of the World, while The People said Capello had "wheeled out a tired old World Cup excuse" and The Observer wrote "manager's selections and motivational skills continue to baffle."
England's next qualifier for Euro 2012, being co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine, is against Bulgaria on September 2.comments