Stand-in captain Rio Ferdinand says the England camp was like "a circus" before the arrival of coach Fabio Capello.
Ferdinand, whose nation face a World Cup qualifier in Belarus on Wednesday, believes the 2006 World Cup campaign was damaged by the celebrity culture.
The 29-year-old said: "We became a bit of a circus, in terms of the whole WAG (wives and girlfriends) situation.
"People were worrying more about what other people were wearing and where they were going, rather than the team."
Ferdinand will wear the captain's armband in place of the injured John Terry when England attempt to make it four wins from four World Cup qualifiers under Capello in Minsk.
Manchester United defender Ferdinand reveals the atmosphere around the England set-up is now completely different to the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany under Sven-Goran Eriksson.
There's a winning mentality there. That's what he's putting over to the squad
Rio Ferdinand on Fabio Capello
Back then the squad regularly hit the headlines when they stayed at Baden-Baden and were famously accompanied by their WAGS.
"It seems like there was a big show around the whole England squad," added Ferdinand.
"It was like watching a theatre unfolding and football almost became a secondary element to the main event.
"When you step back and look back at that, you think like it was a circus.
"I'm not going to tell the other players what you should or should not do but I just think that, as a squad, we were a bit too open, going out in and around Baden-Baden, and probably had too much contact with families.
"You don't get many tournaments in your career. To give yourself the best chance, you have to be focused.
"That then transposed itself into the team. This regime is very watertight. If I'm honest, it feels as if we're going in the right direction.
"I don't want to speak too soon but you can see we're at the start of something and hopefully there will be bigger rewards than what we've had in the past."
Football Association director of communications Adrian Bevington insisted that the players were not to blame for any negative atmosphere.
"I fully understand the sentiment Rio is making. What I think I can say very confidently is that I don't actually blame the players for that," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
"In the end they didn't pick the hotel, we did. They didn't say that if your family wants to come and stay in a town 20 minutes down the road from the team hotel they can do.
"If we had been in a big city we would never have heard so much about this."
After reaching the quarter-finals in Germany, England did not even qualify for Euro 2008 under Steve McClaren.
Ferdinand has felt a significant shift in focus since Capello took over as coach - with the Italian guiding his team to a 100% winning start in Group Six of the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign.
"It's a very, very professional regime," he said. "Very result-orientated. Very much like a lot of our clubs. The results come a long way before the performances.
"You see how he is on the training ground, in our meetings, that there's a winning mentality there. That's what he's putting over to the squad he has in front of him. It's about us taking that on board."
Ferdinand feels there is a healthy distance between the players and Capello and the former West Ham and Leeds star compares the relationship with that of his club manager at Old Trafford Sir Alex Ferguson.
"Do you really know any managers? I don't know the real Fergie," he said.
"When he comes to football, he's probably a totally different person to when he's at home with his wife and grandchildren.
"That doesn't matter. They're not here to be buddies, talk about old times or be great friends. They are here to win football matches."
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