Terry to regain England captaincy
Manager Capello to anger Ferdinand by giving Chelsea defender the armband back on a permanent basis
Fabio Capello is insisting on his right to grant a pardon to John Terry, the England captain he sacked in just 10 minutes of cold deliberation 13 months ago.
Though the England manager meets Terry's successor, Rio Ferdinand, today to talk over the reasons for the decision, there seems little doubt that Terry's restoration will be formally announced on the eve of next week's European Championship qualifier against Wales in Cardiff.
"I am talking to other players but I am the manager and it is my decision," said Capello. "I appointed him first time and then he made a mistake. Now I believe he is still a good player and still a good captain. I do not go back on my decision to take away the captaincy, players are examples to young people, and I was sure about that decision."
Now it seems equally certain that Capello believes Terry, who lost the job after a series of indiscretions that included an affair with the partner of his former Chelsea club-mate Wayne Bridge, has served his time and is by far the best candidate to lead England into the European finals – and give the Italian a chance of redeeming the World Cup failure in South Africa last summer that still haunts him.
Capello's re-evaluation of the captaincy situation has several sources. One is the chronic injury situation of Ferdinand – and ever increasing doubts about his availability in 2012. The other is that while vice-captain Steven Gerrard is less afflicted with long-term fitness fears, he has not, for all his other virtues, announced himself to Capello and his No 2 Franco Baldini as a natural-born leader.
The issue – Capello made clear yesterday – was triggered in the recent international against Denmark in Copenhagen when stand-in captain Frank Lampard was withdrawn at half-time. The armband went to Ashley Cole and then, when he was withdrawn, to Gareth Barry.
Terry had been on the field throughout this version of pass-the-parcel and his plight prompted the sympathy of his manager. It also occurred to him that the follow-the-leader routine had bypassed the most effective captain on the field. Capello said: "Seeing that happen made me think about Terry. I thought it was hard for him. He was a player and a good leader, for England and Chelsea, and he is still good. So it is part of my job to make these decisions.
"I still have to talk to some players and then make my decision and it will be announced next week." It is a situation that anyone in Capello's company yesterday would have to say is almost completely stripped of intrigue.
In the Italian football culture the captaincy is a simple question: who has the most caps, Maldini or Baresi? Give whoever it is the armband.
But then in his brief time in English football, Capello has had to leap quite a number of cultural divides.
One of them was the inability of so many English professionals to endure comfortably their time in a remote training camp on the high veld during the World Cup.
He has also seen that the role of an England captain runs much deeper than in Italy, where players are taught to deal with big-game pressure by their clubs' policy of regularly taking them from their homes for preparatory work – and psychological grounding. A driving figure like Terry, Capello now believes, carries a special value.
This is not likely to easily placate the bruised feelings of such players as Ferdinand, Gerrard and the swiftly discarded Lampard.
Ferdinand is thought to be particularly aggrieved but Capello is unlikely to spend too much time soothing bruised egos. His inclination, you have to suspect, is to say this is England, with new rules and new priorities, and that the value system of the Italian game belongs in another game. It may have taken him a critically extended time to grasp these realities, but having done so, he has clearly decided to follow his instincts.
One point he did make yesterday, rather wistfully, is that this whole debate will seem utterly redundant in a few years – when Jack Wilshere becomes the youngest England captain since the World Cup-winning Bobby Moore.
"He is an incredible young player," said Capello. "He is the best midfielder I have seen at his age and in all my teams I have only seen a few young players like him." They include the great Italian defenders Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini and the teenaged Spanish striker Raul. "When [Wilshere] played for 20 minutes in his first international I wasn't so sure but I was very pleased when he started in Denmark. He was very comfortable. Then I saw him play twice against Barcelona and he was incredible in both games, especially in the second game in Barcelona when they applied so much pressure. Anyone who saw him would say he was a great player."
It was a brief but pleasant reverie for the football man who was once again heading back to bitter controversy among what used to be known as a golden generation. At least he could be sure his successor will inherit one nugget of the purest quality – and maybe he will draw some considerable benefit himself.
Meanwhile, the bad boy Terry can anticipate his return from the cold.
Since being appointed as the full-time captain, Ferdinand has only appeared in four of England's 13 matches. His only competitive game was the 0-0 draw at home to Montenegro.
Gerrard has captained England in eight games since Terry was sacked. He led England in the World Cup. His run of seven consecutive games as captain also included the 2-1 friendly victory over Hungary.
Lampard captained England for the first time when earning his 84th cap in the 2-1 friendly win in Denmark last month.
Ashley Cole, Gareth Barry, Wayne Rooney and James Milner have also worn the armband during games.
Time in charge
Gerrard 780 minutes; Ferdinand 270; Lampard 45; Cole 36; Barry 21; Rooney 13; Milner 5.
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