Fabio Capello wouldn't bend and if such a capacity is what you want in the leader of the national team there is a time and a place when it is best expressed.
This was neither the time nor the place, which means that what we have in place of unshakeable principle is something that is hard not to see as betrayal. There is an argument that Capello was within his rights to object to a decision made over his head – and without any consultation – but then this is maybe more than balanced by the nature of the problem.
The issue, the £6m man refused to see, wasn't about his right to make a certain selection or preserve a particular captain, however weighed down by the accumulated baggage of two increasingly desperate years.
It was to accept the belief – clearly expressed by his employers – that some matters move far beyond the touchlines of any football pitch. They concern how you deal with a situation carrying more significance than one football match or a decent showing in a major tournament.
The question isn't John Terry's innocence or guilt in the charge that he racially abused Anton Ferdinand. It is whether it is in the best interests of everyone concerned that he remains captain under the shadow of the court case which will not be decided until after this summer's European Championship finals.
Capello returned yesterday – after an interview on Italian television that seemed to represent something close to calculated insubordination – in open defiance of such a proposition. Terry as his captain, he made clear, was the only foundation on which he would conclude a regime which seemed to have reached rock bottom in the World Cup in South Africa.
It was brinkmanship which, short of some appalling climbdown on principle by the Football Association board which decided that Terry's situation made him untenable as captain, could end in only one way. The result is, of course, one chaotic and divisive situation heaped upon another.
The result is that English football is made, once again, a laughing stock. However, on this occasion, apart from the issue of consultation with Capello, the FA presents an easy target only to those who failed to recognise that it came to its decision on Terry's captaincy in the middle of an extraordinarily difficult dilemma
Capello's newfound enthusiasm for Terry must surely come as something of a surprise, in view of the fact that so recently the Italian took just a matter of minutes to dismiss him in the wake of the controversy over his alleged affair with the former partner of an ex-Chelsea team-mate, Wayne Bridge.
Then the case, in Capello's eyes as well as those of most of the football community, seemed open and shut. Terry had caused a huge split in the England camp. Now it seems that Terry is integral to England's hopes of making any kind of success of the European finals. This is despite the fact that the extent of the current division in the England squad seems nearly identical to the one created by the original affair.
Capello's decision to walk last night makes the whole adventure of his appointment a sorry story of missed opportunity and colliding professional values. The Italian wanted to create his own closed world of discipline and control – and then he found here a world where players had become used to following many of their own instincts.
The first breaking point came in the team's isolated training centre in the South African veld. The second came when members of the England team, and not least the influential Rio Ferdinand, brother of Anton, made clear their unhappiness with the Terry situation.
Last night it happened, the end of the project and so the silencing of any serious hope that Capello might salvage something from the wreckage of his work in England. If there was sadness, there must also be anger. This was a trial of strength that went badly wrong, obscuring not only a sense of coherent action but any semblance of a common cause for the benefit of English football.
Harry Redknapp's day of deliverance thus ended, surely, in fresh doubts about the viability of a job so many believe he was born to do.
More on England...Reuse content