Fabio Capello is set to reinstate John Terry as England captain. And so the soul-searching will begin. Should he, shouldn't he? A national debate is about to erupt.
At least one thing will be clear in this great fog of opinion. Terry would accept the armband with relish. He would step up, beat his chest and be so proud to do this for the country that nobody could ever dare deny he loves. Perhaps that will be enough to prove as successful in the position as he promised to be the last time he held the role. Perhaps it won't. Whatever, the question has wound up being what it always seems to be with England and their supposedly underachieving football team. Will the Bulldog spirit see them through?
Wasn't it supposed to be different with Capello, the great tactician, the great disciplinarian, the genius who would mould and coerce the undoubted talent into a cohesive shape to take on the world? He was going to take England to a whole new, cerebral level of football wasn't he, unvisited in all those tub-thumping years? He would do so by establishing a truth central to all triumphant footballing sides. There is only one gaffer. Leave your ego in the Bentley. Yes, he would be the antidote to the eras of Sven-Goran Eriksson and Steve McClaren. Capello would provide a double dose in one singular application. Eriksson was too weak, McClaren was too weak and witless. Capello was neither. At last, here was a manager worthy of the English ambitions.
Except he isn't. But then, probably no manager is. Yet that would not stop Capello being painted, in some quarters, as a nerveless general who couldn't care less about public perception, about his critics, about the feelings of his other senior players even. He would turn to Terry because that's what would be best for the team. The only thing that ever matters to the football man.
Naturally, there would be another way to look at this. That this would be the action of a manager who does not quite know what to do. A manager for whom time is running out as quickly as the ideas. He would have seen the fuss concerning who will or won't be appointed as captain and he would have wondered and blundered and become bogged down in stuff he always vowed to avoid. In Italy, the captaincy is an irrelevance. In truth, it should be here, too. But by reinstating the controversial Chelsea defender, Capello would be ascribing it huge importance at the same time as creating a controversy with the potential to distract and destruct.
There is a theory that Capello has experienced some sort of English football epiphany and finally recognises that the identity of the nationalcaptain is of genuine import on these islands. All I can say is why has it taken him so long, if he is as astute as we were all led to believe? But then, does anyone – even the most one-eyed of John Bull enthusiasts – honestly think that the desultory showing at last year's World Cup had anything at all to do with who was leading the team on the pitch?
As everyone knows, the problems run far, far deeper and this is where Capello should be concentrating his efforts. Not on some peripheral matter with the absurd power to cause dissension in the dressing room. It is all so pointless, all so un-Capello, if you like. It would surely be another measure of quite how far this brilliant club manager has fallen since taking on his first and, in all probability, last international role.
What would happen if he gave, say, Frank Lampard the captaincy for the match against Wales? Would Terry, undeniably a fine centre-half, behave any differently on the pitch? Would he shout any less, give any less, be any less of an influence? Of course he wouldn't. He so obviously would not still be leadership material if he did. But now the lenses would train on him, the questions would come at him, the unseemly chapters would be resurrected and the shrewdness, or otherwise, of Capello's decision would dominate the build-up to the Millennium Stadium confrontation a week on Saturday. If I was Gary Speed, I would be skipping among the daffodils at the impending appointment.
Whatever anyone claims, Terry did question Capello's authority in South Africa – inevitably infuriating some of his team-mates in the process – and has continued to do so since. Recently, he even accused Capello of "taking the piss" in ignoring him when handing around the armband during a friendly against Egypt. "I think they would have given it to one of the stewards ahead of me," said Terry, before all but damning Capello for mismanagement. "Even if it was a friendly, we were still there to win and you should put your best people in charge."
Quite. You would need good reason not to. The thing is, many believed Capello had good reason not to – including, presumably, Capello himself. I acknowledge time is a great healer, but this fast? What would have changed in a couple of months? A few injuries? A captaincy crisis, a confidence crisis, a qualification crisis which requires emergency measures? Or would Capello simply be admitting he was at fault for ever demoting Terry in the first place? After all, he was reported to have told Terry he did so to take the spotlight away. Yet as Terry pointed out, "it had the reverse effect".
But now he is reported as being on the brink of directing the glare Terry's way again. Lights, camera, action. Do England really need all this? Does Terry need it? Maybe they do and who knows, maybe Capello will go along with the frankly baffling argument that he realised Terry's worth as a leader while he was breaking ranks and mouthing off to the media at that Royal Bafokeng training ground. If that's true, then Capello wouldn't be strong; he'd be weak. And no, there wouldn't be one boss. Another brick seems set to leave the wall as the myth continues to tumble.
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