On the eve of a game in which England can secure their participation at the World Cup finals, Fabio Capello has questioned why the Wembley crowd returned to its hostile ways to boo Joleon Lescott at the weekend.
England's 2-1 friendly win over Slovenia was marked by a bizarre episode when Manchester City's new signing Lescott was audibly booed by some sections of the crowd as he replaced West Ham's Matthew Upson after 64 minutes.
Ashley Cole's confirmation as man-of-the-match was also met with an unappreciative response, echoing the treatment the left-back received following a mistake against Kazakhstan in October 2008. Moreover, in recent years both David Bentley and Frank Lampard have been targeted by England fans.
With England winning seven qualifiers in succession under Capello to leave them requiring three points against Croatia to book their flights to South Africa, it was thought that the hostility from home fans was subsiding. However, the Italian was bemused to hear the reaction of a dissatisfied minority on Saturday.
"I do not understand why they boo Lescott,'' Capello said. "Our fans have to help the players, not boo. All the players are in the England team and you have to support them.''
Capello also defended Glen Johnson after the Liverpool right-back was criticised for his role in Slovenia's late reply on Saturday. The Italian was visibly frustrated following the goal but refused to pin the blame on any individual in Tuesday's press conference.
"Sometimes there are mistakes, but he is one of the best right-backs in the world,'' said Capello. "The players know when they make a mistake, I am not angry - I am angry when they do not do what we have prepared for in training.''
Two negative incidents should not detract from what has been a hugely impressive two years in charge for Capello and the promise displayed in a famous 4-1 win in Croatia could reach fruition at Wembley on Wednesday.
The England boss has dismissed suggestions that those players who faced the same opposition when failing to quality for Euro 2008 will be haunted by the 3-2 defeat that signalled the end of Steve McClaren's reign.
"That match is too old, it was too long ago. It is history,'' said Capello when asked if he had watched the game as part of his planning. "I prefer to look at the next game. I do not speak about a game that they played two years ago. I have to motivate the players for tomorrow, not what happened two years ago. They will go into this game thinking about how we won in Croatia.''
The most intriguing element of Capello's team selection lies in attack with Jermain Defoe making a strong case for inclusion thanks to his goal against Slovenia. The Tottenham striker is hoping to replace Emile Heskey as Wayne Rooney's partner and the manager is close to making his decision.
"More or less, I have decided in my mind,'' Capello said. "Heskey and Defoe are both really important for me, each has a different style, but are both really important. We will be playing at home and Croatia will play in a different style. We have to prepare for a different game.''