Terry's all gold as threat of Bellamy melts away
There was some trepidation in John Terry's heart, no matter how emphatic his claim that any England players who had issues with his reinstatement as captain might approach him privately – which sounded suspiciously like "I'll see you outside." Terry's fears were written on his face last week as he spoke, rapidly and without drawing breath, about his leadership qualities in a way that made his press conference sound like a job interview. He wants to be wanted.
There were some pitfalls ahead out on the pitch too and, as Terry's face flashed up on the Millennium Stadium screen like some pantomime villain and the boos issued around the stadium, there was no mistaking where they lay. Craig Bellamy was wearing fluorescent orange boots.
It's a year since the searing pace of Bellamy, in Manchester City colours, caused Terry some terror in a 4-2 defeat at Stamford Bridge and exposed his obvious weakness to speed. We can be sure that Bellamy had a conversation in store for Terry as well. Martin Keown described Bellamy yesterday as "one of the mouthiest players I've faced but he feels he needs to be, to be at his best", and the Welshman's firm opinions on the Wayne Bridge affair left him full of material.
You imagine that the Welsh game plan would have included Aaron Ramsey picking out a pass to allow Bellamy to race beyond Terry and tuck the ball into the net, though the realms of the imagination is where that notion must stay today. Ramsey's first afternoon as his nation's youngest permanent captain was spent being pressed deeper and deeper into his own half by Scott Parker – the most vital England presence yesterday – and those flashy boots of Bellamy were barely scuffed in the first half. He did find someone to talk to.
Bellamy's "conversation" with Ashley Cole lasted most of the first half, on and off, after a very early tangle with him, though Cole had committed no real injustice. It was just the Welshman, frustrated that it had taken three minutes of the game to fasten on to any possession, whipping himself into a fury that he might feed off.
There had certainly been no passes. The game was 43 minutes old, and Bellamy had switched from right flank to left, before he and Ramsey could link up with an exchange of passes, which allowed Chris Gunter a rare shot at goal.
As Bellamy's frustrations grew – he screamed at the sky when the first of two measured passes behind Terry for Leicester's Andy King rolled beyond their target and out of play because their recipient timed his run too late – Terry strutted around the English defence with the calm of a player who knew that this was the perfect place for a reinstatement.
There was irony about the way Terry advanced out of defence with the poise usually associated with the deposed Rio Ferdinand to provide the critical input to the move which won England their penalty. His sweet exchange of passes with Cole and through-ball for Ashley Young, who was tripped, are not qualities you associate with him.
Neither was the 30-yard pass Terry tried to execute for Young later in the first half, which revealed buckets of confidence. A thumping Terry tackle on King was hard but fair. When Bellamy finally got somewhere near him just past the hour, a wild tackle left Bellamy on his backside as the Englishman sauntered off.
There was a reminder, for a Welsh nation which has grounds for desolation today, of the damage Ramsey might have inflicted on Terry, had the 20-year-old not been operating on sucha remote plain from all but Bellamy. The home captain's sweet feint past his opposite number opened up Wales's best chance which he snatched over the bar.
Thus, Terry's remarkable record as England skipper is maintained – the nation have lost only two of the 20 games in which he has been captain – and as he took the English applause in the late afternoon sunshine, it seemed that this leader had never been away.
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