John Terry's press briefing yesterday was prefaced with such a stern and unequivocal explanation from a Football Association official as to what would not be discussed that it fell to the England captain to break the awkward moment of silence that followed with a joke. "I was going to come in with that tape [over my mouth] like in The Sun this morning," Terry said.
That paper's back page had featured his face with the mouth sealed by two crossing strips of gaffer tape above the headline "Gagged" – a reference to the FA's ban on Terry discussing the allegations of racial abuse against him.
He had come straight from his press conference with the television crews – for the most part a joust between reporters and the FA's head of media relations, Mark Whittle – so he was aware that there was only one topic of interest, the events of 23 October and Anton Ferdinand at QPR.
The issue is the elephant in the room. Fabio Capello is picking an experimental team to face Sweden tonight, one that, he said yesterday, would involve eight changes from the starting line-up of the team that beat Spain on Saturday. But even that has not been enough to deflect attention from Terry's situation.
The team that runs out this evening in front of new Wembley's lowest-ever attendance for a senior England international will be an unusual mix of the old and the new.
For Capello the priority is to look at a group of players whose Premier League form demands his attention even if they are not guaranteed picks for the Euro 2012 squad. While he promised eight changes from Saturday, the suggestion is that it could be as many as nine with Scott Carson getting the second half in place of Joe Hart.
There will be a first start for Kyle Walker at right-back after debut against Spain. Other than Terry, the back four of Walker, Gary Cahill and Leighton Baines have 12 caps in all. In midfield, there will be a first start to Jack Rodwell, also on debut against Spain.
Capello confirmed there will also be a start in attack for Bobby Zamora, a childhood friend of Terry, who has played for England just once before, against Hungary more than a year ago. Danny Welbeck, a substitute against Spain, is expected to start if he is fit, along with Stewart Downing.
Capello's message is that he has no time to spare to experiment with new players. "I think the confidence with the players is improving but the game against Sweden will be different," he said. "We need to play forward because they'll defend from midfield. Usually they are really compact and play the counter-attack really well. With two players like [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic and [Johan] Elmander, they're dangerous on the counter. It will be a different kind of game." That it will surely be.Reuse content