James Lawton: FA has started the job, now Fabio must finish it by excluding Terry
Capello plainly made a shocking miscalculation when he decided to give Terry a second chance
The King is dead, again, so long live the King, whoever he proves to be. Those who believe that the captaincy of England's football team is largely about tossing the coin and keeping out of trouble will say this is probably enough of a postscript on the latest stripping of John Terry's armband.
Unfortunately for Fabio Capello, it is only half the story.
Would Terry's presence in the dressing room at the European Championship be any less divisive after once more being turned into just another serving soldier? The England coach has been left with that dilemma by the Football Association elders but from this vantage point the answer does not seem too elusive.
Certainly, the evidence from England's last campaign at the World Cup makes a persuasive case for the complete jettisoning of a player who, despite having many admirably competitive qualities, has proved a lot more trouble than any coach might reasonably bear.
There can be little sympathy for Il Capo, however. The man who made a brilliant reputation on implacable – and unsentimental – professional values plainly made a shocking miscalculation when he decided to give Terry a second chance.
What was so stunning about that reversal was the still vivid memory of the force of Capello's first decision, how Terry was summoned to Wembley in the middle of the furore over his alleged affair with the ex-partner of a team-mate and then sent on his way, minus the captaincy, in a matter of minutes.
The coach's position then was utterly unequivocal. Nothing could impinge on the unity of the team.
Now he has to consider the risk of that already fragile status being ripped apart once more under the shadow of Terry's trial for alleged racial abuse of Anton Ferdinand, who, of course, happens to be the brother of Rio, one of the vaguely viable candidates to reclaim the armband before he withdrew from the race yesterday.
All round, it is another perfect storm in Capello's troubled relationship with what passes for professional conduct at the top of English football.
It means that the weight of logic rests heavily on the FA conclusion this week that separating Terry from the captaincy again was inescapable. A Capello move to complete the job, to say that the Terry baggage that was so apparent during the World Cup campaign – when his self-appointed role in trying to rally a desperate cause was seen by many as yet another widening of the already existing division in the team – had simply become too much, would surely command the same reaction.
What we would have, albeit in the most halting way, is some attempt to create a few of the certainties the coach enjoyed before the first Terry crisis in 2010 – and the swiftly ensuing evidence that a brilliant qualifying campaign for the World Cup had merely delayed the onset of another England breakdown in discipline and competitive focus.
That was visible, quite horrifically at times, in the appalling England performance in South Africa. So Capello is obliged to agonise all over again, not just about the quality of individual members of his side but their ability to make some passing run at the kind of team spirit which glows from such contenders as Spain and Germany.
He had some interesting, if not totally ambiguous, input yesterday from John Barnes, no stranger to racism in his distinguished career with Liverpool and England. Barnes said: "I prefer to look at the bigger picture, tackling racism as a whole. I don't think it would be toxic in the dressing room but stripping him of the captaincy and saying he can still play for England is hypocritical."
Capello doesn't have the time, or probably the inclination, to juggle such nuances of feeling but he may appreciate Barnes' central point, the one that says you can't solve this particular problem by the simple device of removing an armband.
Another more pragmatic point which may just have occurred to Capello is that, while rival coaches have to do no more than fine-tune their squads and re-emphasise the values that got them to the finals, his duty is again to machete his way through the kind of problem that would have been inconceivable back home in Italy. It is as basic as imposing a degree of peace and comradeship in the dressing room.
Though he has taken himself out of captaincy contention, a fully fit Rio Ferdinand would obviously be a compelling candidate to share central defensive duties with Terry – though that possibility was not exactly enhanced by the belief that if Terry had been fit for tomorrow's collision between their clubs he was unlikely to have received a handshake from his long-time England colleague. It is a case of piling one absurdity upon another, especially when you consider that in normal circumstances Capello would be considering Terry's current playing form quite as much as his genius for causing industrial-scale distraction to all around him.
The sense of an international team – heir to one whose survivors remain as close to each other as they were when they won the World Cup in 1966 – chronically unable to grow up is only increased when you consider the leading candidates to replace Terry as captain.
Steven Gerrard? His record of discipline on and off the field is less then exemplary and it is also true his leadership in South Africa was a long way from inspiring. Wayne Rooney, given the passing honour against Brazil in Qatar, presumably left his candidacy in the desert, especially when you remember that he is able to play in just one of the group games only through a massive defence effort by the FA after he was sent off in Montenegro. Ashley Cole? It is perhaps not the most resounding thought. Probably the safest bet is Joe Hart, who two years ago was considered too raw for World Cup exposure.
It's all very well telling Il Capo to do the right thing, but with whom? He can and should discard the problem of Terry but then who replaces the culture from which the player came? This, plainly, is too much work for one man, even if he is paid £6m a year.
Lancaster has faced his big challenge in the right way
England's interim rugby union coach, Stuart Lancaster, needs some spectacular results to hold off more experienced opposition when a permanent appointment is made but it is certainly no hardship wishing him some good luck at Murrayfield tonight.
He was given a clean-up operation which seemed to call more pressingly for a hosepipe than a brush. His response, though, has been splendidly uncompromising in its investment in a new start for a team which had plainly lost its way both on and off the field. He could have put more emphasis on achieving a result against the pesky Scots than some unequivocal statement about the way the future has to be.
Undoubtedly, Lancaster chose the more honourable course. His reward, quite separate from the calculations of a Twickenham selection committee, is that he can always tell himself that he faced up the great challenge of his career. For some considerable time, not too many at the Rugby Football Union will be able to say that.
The man who showed a true love for Ali
Joe Frazier, now Angelo Dundee. Suddenly the human furniture of Muhammad Ali's life is going, piece by piece.
It is hard to imagine a more forlorn process for the man who once lit up the world with the consistently vital help of the genius cornerman Dundee, who died this week at the age of 90.
Dundee displayed his love for the great man most conspicuously when he defied the urgings of the Nation of Islam management and threw in the towel when Ali was being systematically battered by Larry Holmes in Las Vegas in 1980.
Sometimes Dundee's sayings seemed to come straight from the pages of Damon Runyon. But his greatest eloquence was provoked by the promptings of his heart. Angelo Dundee was a friend and ally to many great fighters but, of course, there was only one Muhammad Ali, as he reminded us in that unforgettably poignant moment all those years ago.
Latest in Sport
- 4 #JeSuisEd: People share photos of themselves eating awkwardly in solidarity with Labour leader
- 5 Women think Irish men are the sexiest, survey finds
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
General Election 2015: Sturgeon claims Scots 'appalled' by Ed Miliband's refusal to work with SNP