James Lawton: Terry should be put to one side but England look beyond help

Capello has one last shot at redemption in the European Championship

English football has known its low points, heaven knows, but here is a challenge: trawl back through the worst of times and then say that the national game has ever been in less uplifting shape than it is going into the friendly game with world champions Spain at the weekend.

True, there have been some desperate breakdowns, humiliating ejections from the World Cup and the European Championship, the time when Wembley scoffed at the portly figure of Ferenc Puskas of Hungary and then watched him unfurl a new and brilliant game. And there were the befuddling match-fixing scandals of the Sixties.

Yet at the start of the second decade of the 21st century could there be a much more depressing picture of moral and creative torpor than the one embattled manager Fabio Capello is obliged to stare into right now?

His captain, John Terry, whom he was obliged to reappoint because of a gut-wrenching lack of viable alternatives, is stood down from the team while it is decided whether racism is to be added to a list of convictions dismaying in its depth and its squalor. At the same time his most talented player, Wayne Rooney, has to make way for possible replacements while he serves, failing a successful appeal, his suspension through the group stage of next summer's European Championship.

Capello has been the subject of withering criticism ever since a catastrophic World Cup campaign the summer before last but did any general go to war with less battle-worthy troops?

When we look forward to Saturday's game with Spain we have to consider the appalling possibility of not just embarrassing defeat but a spirit-sapping exposure of a broken football culture.

When Capello smiled wanly at the truth that he has run out of potential captains – the last one standing of his original quartet, Frank Lampard, can no longer come close to automatic selection – he probably found it impossible not to compare his situation with that of his Spanish counterpart, Vicente del Bosque.

It is not only that Del Bosque is inundated with exceptional talent, seven of them nominees for player of the year and another, Manchester City's David Silva, operating in England in a class pretty much of his own. If Del Bosque has class and experience, the cream of a generation of Spanish footballers who have outstripped the rest of the world, wherever he turns, he also has a roll call of captaincy material which underlines the poverty of Capello's choice.

What do you want in a captain? Maybe the ferocious will of a big, commanding goalkeeper who seemed to step straight from the cradle into the maelstrom of big-time football. Well, snap your finger and here comes Real Madrid's Iker Casillas.

Perhaps you fancy someone more along the lines of Bobby Moore – remember him, the lion and the beautifully polished spirit of the English game, who had the presence of mind to wipe his hands clean of sweat before receiving the World Cup from the Queen 45 years ago? Barcelona's Gerard Pique, the fastest-maturing defender in world football, would surely be no kind of risk.

You could toss up between two of the greatest midfield players football has ever seen, Andreas Iniesta or Xavi Hernandez – or watch Cesc Fabregas, the once precocious leader of Arsenal, grow into the job.

Xabi Alonso, whose departure from Anfield was so devastating to the sense of a team capable of taking control of a game, is another contender and if David Villa is more the individual shock troop, his passion and his commitment would surely get you by for a game or two.

Meanwhile, Capello feels compelled to tolerate the seamy melodrama of Terry's latest plight. Why not put him to one side and wait due process of Anton Ferdinand's apparently unbreakable belief that he was the victim of Terry's racial abuse?

Because, we have to believe, Terry is considered vital to the manager's last chance of redemption in English football, a decent showing in the European Championship. Really, this Terry who is obliged to fight now for his continuing credibility at Stamford Bridge and who must still nurse deep wounds from the disaster of the World Cup campaign and the quick, ruthless slaughter imposed by a young German team?

Capello insists that his decisions are based on the pragmatism of an old football man – and his belief that Terry should be considered innocent until proven guilty. It is an admirable principle but, unfortunately, it does little to dislodge the impression that he is in charge of a team that continues to suggest it is beyond long-term help.

Capello wants to look at "other players". He wants to see if the likes of Bolton's Gary Cahill and Manchester United's Phil Jones or Jack Rodwell and Phil Jagielka from Everton can come in a late and convincing rush. This is what he says, anyway.

What he thinks, when he contemplates the resources of Vicente del Bosque and considers the plight of John Terry and Wayne Rooney, is possibly another matter. Come next Saturday, this could be nightmarishly so.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits