Fabio Capello delivered a swift and devastating response to John Terry's putative challenge to his leadership last night, describing it as "a very big mistake", accusing the Chelsea captain of showing a lack of respect for his team-mates and suggesting he had also "disappointed" some of them.
Capello's move to assert his authority also included the cool observation that no player had challenged him at the Sunday team meeting at which Terry had suggested he would. "I read yesterday that John Terry said this," Capello said. "I don't understand why he doesn't speak with me. You have to speak privately. This is the big mistake; this is very big mistake." Terry had been warned before the meeting that following through on his promise would be ill-advised and did not speak up.
The England manager also observed that "one player is not so important compared to all the other players; the group is more important than one player". His obvious distaste for Terry's attempts to position himself as a self-appointed team leader, ahead of tomorrow's crucial match with Slovenia, raise doubts about whether Terry will even be a part of the England set-up after the World Cup.
It is become increasingly clear that Terry was speaking for no other player when he declared his intention to challenge Capello's methods and that, as The Independent reported yesterday, there was no mass player rebellion at the weekend. Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher are understood to be among those players most dismayed by Terry's inference he was speaking for them. "No, it's not a revolution, it's one mistake from one player, no more," Capello said. "Only John Terry said this. No-one else [spoke] with me about the problems."
Though Capello acknowledges his players need to relax more when they play, he is sticking to his culture of discipline. "We are here to play at the World Cup and not for a holiday," he said ahead of a game he described as "one of the biggest of my career". The England manager acknowledged that the squad is not universally happy. "Probably one or two are not happy but the majority are happy," he said. He censured Terry for damaging spirits by suggesting on Sunday that Joe Cole and Wayne Rooney were "the only two who can open up defences".
"Joe Cole is one of the 23 players who are here," Capello said. "All the players are on the bench. It's difficult when you speak about the players and speak about one single player. I think you have to respect the other players who have played before. That is most important. The respect of the other players."
Capello, who has said there will be "one or two changes" from the Algeria game, has discarded one convention by revealing that Matthew Upson will start instead of the suspended Jamie Carragher tomorrow. He is believed to be weighing up whether Cole or Shaun Wright-Phillips might start, with Aaron Lennon the likely casualty after a poor display on Friday.
Capello's task is now to restore order and have Terry in the right frame of mind, though the impression of unhappiness in the ranks deepened yesterday when Sir Alex Ferguson said he had been so concerned by word of Rooney's mood that he contacted him before the Algeria game and urged him to relax. "Sometimes the expectation can be debilitating in terms of getting the players to perform to the levels required to get through this group," Ferguson said. "I had that feeling. I spoke to Wayne Rooney last week and just said, 'Relax and enjoy it.' I just sensed there was a tension in and around the camp from what I was hearing."
Frank Lampard acknowleged that it was not Terry's place to suggest Cole should be in tomorrow's team – "I've always respected as such that he [Capello] will pick the team" – but attempted to defend his club team-mate during a press conference in which the issue of Terry dominated. "I think John spoke very honestly," Lampard said. "I don't know whether he pushed it too far. I think we should be thankful that there are players who speak in that way."
Capello has also learned that the referee appointed for tomorrow's game, Wolfgang Stark, is one with whom Terry has clashed before. Stark was the official whom Terry accused of disrespecting him back in March – the source of Terry's ire being the German's performance during Chelsea's Champions League exit at Internazionale's hands. "I went to try to talk to him and when he wouldn't talk that is when I got frustrated," he said.
Franz Beckenbauer has reiterated his belief that England are regressing. "I am not going to criticise England this time following their goalless draw with Algeria because all the bigger teams have taken a step backwards," he said.Reuse content