Rio Ferdinand was assured yesterday that he is still the permanent England captain, despite the manager Fabio Capello concluding that a year without the England captaincy is punishment enough for John Terry and his readiness to hand him the armband against Wales next week.
Ferdinand was surprised and not entirely happy to learn of Capello's plans through the media but was assured by Capello's assistant, Franco Baldini, yesterday morning that he should not fear for his future position as captain, despite Capello's willingness to reinstate the individual who was the manager's preference ahead of him in the first place. Ferdinand has told Capello's staff he will be available for Cardiff, though the Manchester United defender began training only at the weekend, seven weeks after injuring his calf during the warm-up at Molineux. The United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, has already said: "I don't think it would be wise for him to be called up."
Ferdinand has made only four appearances this calendar year and none since 1 February, raising doubts about him playing a substantial international role in the future, which might open up a permanent reinstatement for Terry. The major imponderable is where Terry would sit in the order of preference were Steven Gerrard to be back from groin surgery for the Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland on 4 June and Ferdinand still unavailable for that game. Ferdinand has played only four of England's 12 fixtures since being appointed permanent captain.
With Terry's availability generally far better, Capello fears he has become a slave to his emphatic announcement decision last February that "if I am the England manager I think he will not be captain again"; with his faith in Frank Lampard as a captain clearly weak, he feels he has no choice but to reinstate Terry if Ferdinand has not recovered from a calf injury in time to play at the Millennium Stadium in 12 days' time.
Capello's readiness to bring Terry back is extraordinary on a number of counts, not least that he has always stated categorically that there is a three-man pecking order for captain: Ferdinand, Gerrard and Lampard. Gareth Barry is not considered anywhere near contention for the duties in a game which England need to win after the disappointing 0-0 draw with Montenegro in their previous Euro 2012 qualifier, in October.
Surprisingly, Capello also feels Terry's attitude has been excellent since he was stripped of the captaincy. The "coup" of last summer, in which Terry publicly promised in a press conference during England's World Cup campaign that he would challenge his manager at a crucial impending team meeting and did not care if he "upset" the Italian, appears to have been forgotten, or accepted. Perhaps Capello now considers it to have been positive behaviour.
Capello's worries that this U-turn might be considered a sign of his willingness to back down on issues reveals he is not immune to public opinion, though those close to him have told him that he should ignore perceptions, and instead concentrate on making the right footballing decision.
It is understood that there have been no discussions between Capello and the Football Association over the Terry decision, though the profound symbolism of clearing the hurdle to hand Terry the captaincy for one game raises the question of why he should not retain it permanently. No firm decision has been taken on that, though Terry is certainly considered an option now.
Terry said he would "continue to give everything for England" when deposed on 5 February last year, following revelations about his personal life, including, an alleged relationship with Vanessa Perroncel, the ex-girlfriend of Terry's former Chelsea team-mate Wayne Bridge.