Shaun Wright-Phillips recalls the night England missed out on Euro 2008 qualification and Fabio Capello’s infamous 2010 World Cup camp
The winger describes being involved in one of the most disappointing games of England's modern history and working under hard-nosed boss Capello
Shaun Wright-Phillips endured some difficult moments in his England career, not least in November 2007 when the nation failed to qualify for Euro 2008.
On that day, England lost 3-2 to Croatia at Wembley in a crucial game where only a win would ensure they head to the tournament in Austria and Switzerland the next summer. Steve McClaren was also sacked, notoriously dubbed the "Wally with the Brolly".
Wright-Phillips - a Chelsea player at the time - started the game against Croatia as a winger flanking Peter Crouch. However, with England 2-0 down at half-time thanks to early goals from Niko Kranjcar and Ivica Olic, McClaren replaced him and Gareth Barry with Jermain Defoe and David Beckham.
England rallied in the second-half, bringing the scores level through Frank Lampard and Crouch, but Mladen Petrić broke English hearts by scoring the Croatian winner. A desolate dressing room followed.
"I was devastated," Wright-Phillips tells FourFourTwo. "Sometimes, when things like that happen, it hurts so much that you don’t know what to do or think.
"People may believe that you don’t care, but it’s not that – you’re just in shock and hurting as much as they are. It was a horrible feeling. Mentally it took quite a while to recover, especially as it was spoken about a lot during the summer.
"Watching the games didn’t help either, and it made it worse to think that we should’ve been there. But we all had to dust ourselves down and push ourselves harder."
Fabio Capello came in as the next England manager, the FA hoping the Italian's strict methods would provide glory for the talented squad. Arriving as a decorated manager with teams such as AC Milan, Real Madrid, Roma and Juventus, many were optimistic of England's chances at World Cup 2010.
However, things didn't quite work out as expected, as Wright-Phillips describes when looking back on the camp in South Africa.
"We all had our own rooms, but there was a common area where we’d play table tennis or hang out together," he explains. "It was a tough camp because our families couldn’t come to the hotel, so we didn’t really see them.
"I liked Fabio Capello. He wanted certain things his own way; I learned throughout my career that managers are completely different from each other, and Capello was like that. We had to use olive oil on our toast, not butter, and we couldn’t have ketchup either.
"Germany beat us but Frank Lampard scored a goal that shouldn’t have been disallowed – if it had been 2-2 at half-time, the game might have swung our way. But the Germans stepped things up a notch, especially with their young players coming through – the likes of Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller grabbed the game by the jugular and put away the chances they had."
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Ryan is a staff writer for FourFourTwo, joining the team full-time in October 2022. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before eventually earning himself a position with FourFourTwo permanently. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer while a Trainee News Writer at Future.
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