The 25 players named in England's extended squad for forthcoming matches against Wales and Ghana will be called together at their hotel tomorrow and told precisely why John Terry is being reinstated as their captain on a permanent basis. The reason in a nutshell, Fabio Capello says of his controversial decision, is: "One year of punishment was enough."
Rio Ferdinand and Steven Gerrard, who revert to being numbers two and three in the pecking order, are both injured and will not be there to hear the manager list Terry's leadership qualities, which by implication have proved superior to their own, even during the year he was demoted. Capello, by his own standards, was positively gushing in reeling them off at Wembley on Friday.
"The game against Wales will be a really tough game and we need a captain with big personality, a leader," he said. "John even when he played without the armband was every time leader on the pitch and leader of the dressing-room, where he was really good every time. He is the biggest personality, absolutely. We need a leader on the pitch."
There were suggestions that when Terry became too outspoken as the World Cup campaign disintegrated last summer, he damaged his standing with the manager as well as some of the players. Capello still maintains he went too far – "even the leader can make mistakes" – but does not believe there will be any resentment in the squad about his return: "I think they'll be happy. They respect John Terry as a leader, absolutely."
Though there is no longer a strong Manchester United faction in the squad, that may depend to an extent on how Ferdinand plays things. He has already let it be known he is "upset" and appeared to go out of his way – literally – to avoid meeting Capello and his assistant Franco Baldini when they went to United's game with Marseille on Tuesday.
They expected to come across him either in the directors' box or hospitality suite but Capello said: "I tried to meet him. He preferred not to meet us, I think. I don't know, it's a question for him. I was ready, I want to meet with him personally and not by phone and explain my decision. He is one of the most important players for experience and value as a player."
If relations become strained, it is even possible that Ferdinand could decide to retire from international football next season, concentrating – as his United team-mates Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs have done – on prolonging their club careers.
A series of injuries have cost him a substantial number of games for club and country in the past three years and also meant Nemanja Vidic took the United captaincy from him last summer. When he strained a calf warming up for the game at Wolves on 5 February, Sir Alex Ferguson's prediction was that it would be a "couple of weeks" absence. Now his main aim is to return by the end of the season, which in England's case stretchesas far as 4 June and the European Championship qualifier at home to Switzerland. Gerrard has told Capello that he too hopes to be fit for that match, and also that he has "no problem" with the captaincy decision.
Injuries permitting this weekend, Arsenal's Jack Wilshere and Tottenham's Michael Dawson should again be the beneficiaries of those absences, as they were when starting the last match in Denmark. Capello's praise was fulsome for Wilshere, of whom he said: "After the game against Barcelona, he's arrived. Out of young players I think he's at the top, not only in England but in Europe." A first-choice in midfield? "Yes, yes. He plays without fear, with confidence and, although so young, is a leader. It's incredible. I never saw such a young player be a leader on the pitch."
A starting place would mean Frank Lampard or, more probably, Gareth Barry missing out. Andy Carroll is likely to be in the squad but not the starting XI as he lacks match fitness and Darren Bent had his best England game last time out. Adam Johnson, who returned as a substitute for Manchester City last Thursday, could squeeze into the 25 with Aaron Lennon ahead of him as replacement for the injured Theo Walcott.
Having been held to a goalless draw at home to Montenegro, England have ground to make up amid what will undoubtedly be a testing atmosphere in Cardiff on Saturday. Wales's results have been disappointing but they ought to have a better team than in the last meeting in 2005, when Sven Goran Eriksson's side won only 1-0.
Squad (probable): Hart (Manchester City), Green (West Ham), Stockdale (Fulham); G Johnson (Liverpool), Dawson (Tottenham), Terry (Chelsea), Cahill (Bolton), Lescott (Manchester City), A Cole (Chelsea), Baines (Everton); Lampard (Chelsea), Wilshere (Arsenal), Barry (Manchester City), Parker (West Ham); Lennon (Tottenham), Milner (Manchester City), Downing (Aston Villa), A Young (Aston Villa), A Johnson (Manchester City); Rooney (Manchester Utd), Bent (Aston Villa), Crouch (Tottenham), Carroll (Liverpool), Defoe (Tottenham), Agbonlahor (Aston Villa) or C Cole (West Ham).
How Fabio avoided the Scots
Saturday's game in Cardiff will be Fabio Capello's first British "derby" but he has revealed that his very first game in charge of England could have been against Scotland. Instead it was decided to have a rather more low-key game against Switzerland, which England won 2-1. They have still not played the Scots since the play-off for the 2000 European Championships, when they lost 1-0 at Wembley after winning 2-0 in Glasgow.
Steve TongueReuse content