Capello right to play Rooney
Fabio Capello took a matter of seconds to draw a line under the debate about whether Wayne Rooney would face Switzerland in Basle - and reached the correct conclusion.
Rooney's display in England's 4-0 win against Bulgaria in the opening Euro 2012 qualifier confirmed he is physically fit and edging towards his world-class best. Once Capello knew he was mentally fit after a weekend of newspaper allegations about his private life, there was no decision to take.
Capello is the ultimate pragmatist. He wants Rooney in action at St Jakob Park on Tuesday, and if there are any problems swirling around the Manchester United striker, England's coach obviously feels they are not his.
He is only interested in England getting the win that would make it a perfect start to their qualifying campaign. Is Rooney in the right place to help Capello achieve that? In the Italian's opinion he is and therefore he was right to insist his star player will start in Basle.
Capello's strident and swift announcement that Rooney will play in Switzerland immediately led to an inquisition about whether he was applying double standards.
He was reminded about how ruthlessly he stripped John Terry of the captain's armband after his alleged affair with the ex-girlfriend of England team-mate Wayne Bridge - and again had a ready answer.
Capello pointed out that while he had removed the captaincy from Terry he never dropped him from the team, clearly feeling the Chelsea defender's ability to lead his country by example had been fatally compromised.
Capello is a coach who makes decisions for today not tomorrow. He brought David Beckham back from the wilderness at Real Madrid because he felt he would help him win La Liga in 2007. The Italian was prepared to tempt - with mixed success - Jamie Carragher and Paul Scholes out of England retirement in an attempt to get results at the World Cup.
Capello's sole priority is the now of international management. And for him, this is getting three points against Switzerland, three points he has a much bigger chance of acquiring with Rooney than without him.
England captain Steven Gerrard reported that Rooney had been his usual self in training and that he expected "a big performance - but we expect a big performance from Wayne Rooney every time he goes out there."
Gerrard, the fellow Scouser who has formed a close bond with Rooney on and off the pitch, revealed he had spoken to the striker and also saw nothing in his demeanour to suggest he should not take his place in Basle.
As with Terry, the Football Association wisely left the matter in Capello's hands and the coach has decided the speculation is a matter for Rooney and not something he expects to detract from his display on Tuesday.
Rooney will be under intense scrutiny in Basle. Instead of Capello and Gerrard reflecting on the injection of confidence provided by the victory against Bulgaria and the first signs of recovery from the South Africa World Cup fiasco, they were inevitably peppered with questions with only a passing reference to Rooney's part in that triumph when they faced the media on Monday.
He was in lively form during England's open training session under leaden Basle skies, front and centre as the team went through their paces under Capello's gaze. And apart from one shout aimed in his direction from a Swiss supporter peering through a gate, the only sound was the noise of clicking cameras accompanying his every move.
The true test of Capello's decision will come in St Jakob Park once the action gets under way - but I believe England's coach has taken the only serious option left open to him once he had spoken to Rooney and convinced himself of the striker's state of mind.
In reality, once Rooney boarded England's plane for Basle he had to play. The matter is a personal one, and unless it was going to undermine business on the pitch there was not a single footballing reason why Capello should have left him out.
To bring Rooney to Basle and not play him would have created another story and another firestorm. Capello was never going to invite that into the England camp at such a crucial time.
And, ever the realist, Capello may also feel that once matters are concluded on Tuesday evening, Rooney is no longer his concern until England next play. He will return to Manchester United and Capello can move on - hopefully with another victory to keep him warm until England's players next meet.
Rooney will want to respond to the strong support from Capello and Gerrard by inspiring England. He may just feel a release from the personal pressures in the place where he operates best - namely on the pitch. Rooney always carries a heavy responsibility as England's talisman and he may just feel the burden is a little weightier in Basle, but Capello has no qualms about his ability to cope.
One area of concern now removed from Capello's mind is that of goalkeeper. In South Africa, his obvious worry about the position manifested itself in him taking up station virtually on a goalpost as his keepers warmed-up and went into full training.
Here in Basle, he was merely casting a cursory glance in their direction as they worked away from the main group. And this is because of the rapid development and maturity of Joe Hart.
Manchester City's young keeper was faultless against Bulgaria. Switzerland will provide a tougher test of his development, but he looks well-equipped for the task.
Capello's only selection issue, now he has decided to pick Rooney, is who partners Phil Jagielka in central defence following the injury to Michael Dawson. Everton's Jagielka enhanced his reputation against Bulgaria, and Capello must choose between Gary Cahill, Matthew Upson and his former Everton colleague Joleon Lescott.
One man, though, will be focusing all that minds inside the steepling stands of St Jakob Park - and Capello will hope his faith in Wayne Rooney is fully rewarded.