David Beckham will win his 100th England cap against France tomorrow, although he does not expect Fabio Capello to grant him the honour of being captain for the occasion. The Italian is expected to ignore tradition and continue with his auditioning candidates for the role.
The only other four Englishmen to have reached 100 caps for England – Billy Wright, Bobby Charlton, Bobby Moore and Peter Shilton – were all given the armband on the occasion of their 100th caps, but the favourite to get his chance to shine is John Terry, who missed last month's Switzerland friendly through injury. Even Beckham thought the Chelsea man had already been installed as captain against France before he was hastily corrected by an FA spokesman yesterday.
While the spotlight will fall on Beckham's 100 caps, the game is no less significant for Terry, who was effectively stripped of the captaincy given to him by Steve McClaren before the friendly against Switzerland. Capello said he would try out a number of options before the World Cup qualifiers, but those options are understood to have narrowed to Terry alone.
With even Beckham admitting "there's no way it's going to be me as captain", the way is clear for Terry after Steven Gerrard failed to impress Capello in the role against Switzerland. The Liverpool captain will have a different job tomorrow when he is expected to play behind Wayne Rooney, in much the same way as he does with Fernando Torres for Liverpool, in the 4-2-3-1 formation preferred by Rafael Benitez. Of the big names in the squad, it is Frank Lampard and Beckham who will be most concerned about their places in the first XI.
Yesterday, Capello laid down another marker to the Premier League's biggest clubs by insisting on his full squad participating in training, including those who played for the top four clubs in Sunday's crucial games. Capello was understood to be unhappy that the scheduling of those fixtures meant he had his players for just two days before tomorrow's game, and did not give those who played on Sunday the usual Monday off. Beckham said his former Real Madrid manager had "totally changed" the regime.
"I've not seen him [Capello] since we were celebrating winning the Spanish title at the Bernabeu [last year]," Beckham said. "I've said since his appointment that he's, without doubt, the right man for the job. He's got his own ways, he knows how to get teams playing. That's what our country needs. We need to get the confidence back of the nation and start by playing some good games. We've definitely got the right man for that. He's started well."
The England Under-21s manager, Stuart Pearce, whose team play Poland at Molineux tonight, revealed yesterday he would play a crucial role in the preparation of Capello's team. Pearce, who joins the Italian and his coaching staff on the day of games, said Capello had asked him to give the final dressing room speech at Wembley last month. "It's general points that he really wants to nail home and emphasise, certain individual points. He's asked me to 'tell them this, make sure they know that'," Pearce said. "He's already spoken in English, but he wants to make sure that he knows full well they are going to understand exactly what he means.
"He knows there's no point them taking the pitch and him being uncertain, and the players being uncertain, and he just wants to emphasise the point. Because I think they are crucial times – those times leading up to the game, half-time and afterwards talking to the players."
England will face a severely depleted France team, who are missing their captain, Patrick Vieira, and strikers Thierry Henry, Louis Saha and Karim Benzema. The France manager, Raymond Domenech, has even recalled the Juventus striker David Trezeguet to the squad for the first time since September. He is the top scorer in the Italian league with 17 goals this season and will probably partner Chelsea's Nicolas Anelka. Arsenal's Bacary Sagna has pulled out with injury and Portsmouth's Lassana Diarra is also a doubt.
Lampard has added his voice to the debate over the England captain and backed his Chelsea team-mate Terry. "The manager will pick who he thinks is the best. All I can say is, John Terry, on and off the pitch, is a monster of a captain. On the pitch he plays with the attitude you want your captain to have. He talks to people around him.
"Off the pitch he gets people together and is a big personality in the dressing room. I can only give him a huge reference in those terms. Obviously, there are other candidates. We've got people who can be leaders, but John is outstanding."Reuse content