Whilst Capello and the press look like hypocrites, Terry emerges as the only credible alternative
Fabio Capello is today set to reappoint John Terry as England Captain, at the expense of Rio Ferdinand and Steven Gerrard, both injured for the upcoming European Championship Qualifying match against Wales. If the reports are to be believed – and Capello seemed quite forthright on the subject in interviews yesterday – then such a decision would be a major about turn for the England manager. Capello however, is not the only one to be performing a swift about-face on the England captaincy. The national press, so scathing a little over a year ago when Terry was exposed as having partaken in an affair with a former team-mate’s girlfriend are, with a few notable exceptions, championing his decision to hand it back, as the right and proper thing to do. Martin Samuel of the Daily Mail, who last year urged Terry to fall on his sword before Capello got there first, today called Terry “England’s natural leader” now leads the praise for Capello’s actions. However, is it the right decision to give the philandering Chelsea skipper the armband for a second time and why are the press so eager to conveniently forget their condemnation of little more than a year ago?
Undoubtedly, Terry does possess some excellent leadership qualities, insofar as it is possible to qualify such things. Indeed, he is vociferous, constantly talking, directing, berating and encouraging those around him. He is a strong defensive lynchpin, around whom a back four can operate in the knowledge his positional sense and tactical knowledge will alert them to forthcoming obstacles and mistakes in their play. He leads by example with a large body of evidence showing him throwing himself in harm’s way for the sake of his team. He is relatively robust, even if in recent years he has struggled somewhat more with the effects of age and of years of putting his head, foot and body in where it hurts, he is still available for selection more often than not. Considering Rio Ferdinand’s propensity for acquiring niggling injuries which generally result in lengthy lay-offs, it is certainly not a quality to be disregarded. Suffice it to say, Terry does provide a lot with these abilities to both Chelsea and England, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that because of the lack of the captaincy he would fail to bring these to the table.
When Terry was stripped of the captaincy in February 2010, it was preceded by a national media campaign of such vitriolic fervour usually reserved only for those guilty of inflicting the most heinous of crimes. The consensus all pointed to the fact that Capello had done the right thing in stripping Terry of his office. Only thirteen months later, the cries of the press for him to be reinstated seem to conveniently bypass the comments which undoubtedly (although he will of course deny it) forced Capello’s hand to an extent. Why? Is it to give support to the national team and it’s manager? Where was that ‘support’ in February of last year when in the run up to a World Cup Finals, the press were searching and scrabbling around for seemingly any sordid little tale with which to distract the attention of their readers from looking forward to the World Cup and with it the players from the task in hand? Is it because public opinion swayed so clearly from being shocked over Terry’s indiscretion to being shocked by the over-reporting of the affair in the press? Most people breathed a sigh of relief when Capello removed Terry from the captaincy, but it wasn’t because they were happy such an awful excuse for a role-model was no longer in a position of authority. No, in fact it was because the exhaustive, invasive, tiresome daily commentary on an issue most people found of little relevance, was finally over. Perhaps this collective will to simply forget the Terry affair was interpreted as being some sort of forgiveness of the Chelsea man, so when his possible candidacy re-emerged less than a week ago, a new editorial line emerged, designed to appeal to the readers who had realised how much they had missed him and how much they would like to see him lead the team out again later this month.
Despite this, it does however, seem a bit of a stretch to make the case that Terry’s reappointment would damage team morale, as the albeit excellent Henry Winter has today. Terry is no shrinking violet and, as his comments at the press conference last summer proved, he is still not averse to speaking his mind. Nor, it can be expected having remained in the team, is he the sort of player to not voice his displeasure with a team-mate on the pitch or in the dressing room. What Capello’s decision does show however, is that the autocratic style he was so revered for throughout the previous qualification campaign, still comes second to his pragmatic tendencies. Capello spoke before of Terry having “broken the rules [sic]” and that the line of progression would fall to his vice-captain Ferdinand and the vice-captaincy would in turn fall to Steven Gerrard. This rule appears somewhat lost when both Ferdinand and Gerrard are out of the next England game, with the spectacle of the captain’s armband visiting half the team against Denmark underlining that there is not an effective understudy to either of these two. Except perhaps Terry.
Wayne Rooney and Ashley Cole are the only truly experienced, guaranteed starters remaining if you rule out Terry, Ferdinand and Gerrard. Whilst each of those two are not without their off-field problems, Cole seems the very antithesis of an England Captain and Rooney has suffered significantly with his form this season. Joe Hart is still establishing himself as England’s number one. Glen Johnson still has question marks hanging over his defensive ability. Frank Lampard will surely be replaced by the exciting Jack Wilshere within the year. Gareth Barry must be glad no credible alternative defensive minded midfielder has yet emerged, otherwise his place in the team would be in severe jeopardy. Theo Walcott, Aaron Lennon, Adam Johnson, Ashley Young and James Milner are all, when fit, engaged in an interesting battle for the two spaces on the wings and are thus not established enough to warrant such guaranteed inclusion. Finally, Darren Bent and Peter Crouch are still not certain whom Capello prefers as Rooney’s strike partner. As such we are led to drawing a conclusion that many of us won’t like but which, when presented with the facts, dictates that Capello’s hands are somewhat tied and again (as if the awesome World Cup displays were not evidence enough) underlines the lack of depth and quality within the England squad.
Unless wholesale changes are to be made in the England team and youth is suddenly propelled above the established first team and a shock candidate handed the role of England captain, it would seem that we have drawn a similar conclusion to that of Fabio Capello and the British media. However without a nod to their previous definitive rejection of John Terry as captain material, their respective authority and integrity would seem undermined and, in the eyes of perhaps the players, supporters and even the main beneficiary of such a decision - John Terry – will sense the smell of hypocrisy and view both his manager and the media with more than a little bit of extra disdain.