Fabio Capello declined to comment yesterday on whether John Terry will remain England captain, but it will be the manager's decision alone without any interference from FA executives. Capello is recuperating in Italy after a knee operation and is not due to face the media until after the draw in Warsaw next Sunday for the 2012 European Championship.
He had just given an interview to Sunday newspapers stressing how much he was enjoying the job and reaffirming an intention to see out his contract until 2012 when the unwelcome news broke of Terry's alleged affair with the girlfriend of his England and former Chelsea team-mate Wayne Bridge.
The fact that Bridge is a squad member is the complicating factor. Capello, although renowned as a disciplinarian and family man, might normally be inclined to take the continental view that the private life of public figures is irrelevant until it affects their performance; he does, after all, come from a country where Silvio Berlusconi is prime minister. Now, however, he is faced with the prospect of having the two players in adjacent positions on the pitch in training or – if the first-choice left-back, Ashley Cole, is unavailable – in England's next match, at home to Egypt on 3 March. That will be the case whether Terry is wearing the captain's armband or not. Bridge is expected to return from injury next weekend and should therefore be available for the Egypt game. He has not played since Manchester City's win over Chelsea in December.
There might at one time have been calls for Cole to be dropped after his conviction last week for driving at 104mph in a 50mph zone on the A3, but the notion of England players as role models is beginning to appear quaintly old-fashioned. Neither Rio Ferdinand nor Steven Gerrard, the potential replacements as captain, have unblemished records.
Bookmakers William Hill therefore took the pragmatic line last night in making Terry the odds-on favourite to keep the captaincy for the opening World Cup game in June. Their spokesman said: "Football seems to have a moral code all of its own."
The FA were keen to stress that officials such as the chief executive, Ian Watmore, and independent chairman, Lord Triesman, will not be involved in the decision. They were delighted to hear Capello stress that he hopes to continue as manager after the World Cup. "It depends on the FA and results at the World Cup but I am really happy," he said. "I like my job. The football in England is exciting, the Premier League is good. I have a good feeling with the players but also the managers and the FA. I like living in London and so does my wife. I am happy here and I hope to be the England manager for the Euros."
Meanwhile, Manchester United, who play Arsenal today, may face a takeover attempt by a group of wealthy investors. Football financier Keith Harris has been approached by the club's Supporters Trust to broker a buy-out of the Glazer family. The Trust claim to have "super-rich" investors interested and Harris says: "You sense that this time the fans truly mean it."