Fabio Capello yesterday threw his full support behind his embattled captain John Terry by declaring that he had "no regrets" at reappointing the player to the position in March, and announcing that Terry will lead England out against Sweden on Tuesday.
With the police investigation into allegations against Terry of racial abuse hanging over the squad, Capello said that it was his wish for the player to continue as captain. Terry will not be in the team today to face Spain at Wembley, although he will be on the bench. The Chelsea man is unlikely to be called upon unless injuries to other players demand it.
With the Football Association still having to tiptoe around the Terry issue until the police announce whether or not they have a case against him, Capello's support for his captain was unequivocal yesterday. "He [Terry] has been good, good [this week]," Capello said. "No problems with him in training, [he has been] training with the other players. Really good."
Asked whether he had any regrets about reappointing the captain to the role, Capello said: "Why? I can't speak about this [Terry issue]. I don't regret it [giving the captaincy back to him]. Absolutely not. Because he was a really important player in the dressing room and on the pitch. That's why we picked him. For this reason."
The return of Terry to the captaincy next week will mean that he has to fulfil the responsibility of the captain's press conference on Monday morning, which will prove another problematic experience for the FA if, as expected, there is still no announcement from the police.
Terry's replacement as captain, Frank Lampard, was asked yesterday whether he believed Terry was a racist. Lampard said: "That's a ridiculous question. No. Absolutely not. Absolutely not, I'll answer again."
Lampard said there had been no problems between Terry and the rest of the squad and neither had Terry spoken to the squad as a whole. "No, he's felt no need to do that," Lampard said. "That's quite right as well. He's a member of the squad. You have to take the innocent until proven guilty element of it. The manager has taken that, John's taken that, and that's how it should be taken. The players respect him as a captain of the team, as a leader and as a player. We've done the usual handshakes and 'hellos' when we met up. As simple as that."
Lampard also addressed the potential for friction between Terry and Rio Ferdinand, whose brother, Anton, was allegedly abused during Chelsea's game against QPR at Loftus Road on 23 October. "In terms of Rio, I haven't spoken to Rio, but I'll remain good friends with both," Lampard said. "It'll be an easy thing to talk about once it's all probably been dealt with in the right way. But, as I know both people individually, they've been great players and they're both great players and good friends to me."
Capello announced yesterday that he would select the 19-year-old Phil Jones in midfield against the world champions Spain today. The teenager has played in that position for his former club Blackburn Rovers but only once for Manchester United this season, against Liverpool in the 1-1 draw at Anfield last month.
The England manager said that he had been reassured by Sir Alex Ferguson that Jones was ready to play in the holding midfield position, even if it was to be against the likes of Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta at Wembley today. He also confirmed that Glen Johnson would start the game at right-back and that Phil Jagielka and Joleon Lescott would occupy the two central defensive positions.
On the question of Jagielka's fitness, Capello said the defender, who has a broken toe that requires painkilling injections, had no objections to being picked. Capello said: "I will decide, but I asked the player to be clear. The player said: 'Yes, I want to play.' I didn't say: 'You must play.' That's a big difference."
The Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor was sent home from the England squad yesterday with a hamstring injury, which Capello said was not serious but had necessitated his withdrawal "out of respect to the club".