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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there