If the Football Association was a military command then they would surely have described Fabio Capello's interview with the Italian broadcaster RAI yesterday as a case of one of their lead agents going rogue.
Just when the FA most needed the public support of their manager, he chose to hang them out to dry. Capello's declaration last night that he did not support his employers in their decision to relieve Terry of the captaincy, in the light of his case for racially aggravated abuse being moved back to 9 July, was the moment that the relationship between manager and employer was damaged, perhaps irrevocably.
The FA will have assumed that they had faced the nightmare scenario when Terry's court case was moved back to 9 July, after the end of Euro 2012. In the event it got even worse: now the nightmare scenario is an off-message manager at a time when the FA needs solidarity in public from Capello more than ever.
Asked whether he agreed with the unanimous decision of the 14-strong FA board on Thursday to sack Terry, Capello told RAI, the Italian broadcaster, "Absolutely not." He added: "I spoke with the chairman [David Bernstein] and I told him that I don't think someone can be punished until it becomes official. The court will decide.
"It's going to be civil justice, not sports justice, to decide if John Terry committed that crime that he is accused of. And I thought it fair that John Terry keeps the captain's armband."
The immediate flaw in this argument is that Capello signed a contract which gives the FA every right to change the captain if they so decide - whether the manager agrees or not. It is a clause that is there for a good reason and Capello signed up to it. Even his side acknowledged the provision is in the contract because they doubled-checked the paperwork over the weekend.
If he felt so strongly about the issue of a captain being demoted without his say-so then Capello should never have signed the contract in the first place. But unfortunately the time for those considerations has passed and the FA and its most famous employee find themselves in an extremely difficult position.
It is obvious that the next few days are critical in the relationship between Capello and Bernstein and the FA board. There will have to be some compromise on Capello's side or the FA will find itself in the impossible position come the end of the month of sending their manager into press briefings unsure whether he is about to turn his fire upon them.
So far Bernstein has consensus among his board over Capello but there is a limit to how much he can hold them all in check if they feel that England's £6m-per-year manager is undermining them. There are strong personalities on the FA board including men – and one woman – who have experience of running football clubs and who recognise the dynamics of a failing relationship with a manager.
Capello has had his say over Terry but he should know that if he persists then he will make his own position untenable. The next move has to be his and it has to be conciliatory.
Capello needs to understand that a footballer on a racial abuse charge is not an appropriate captain for the England team. Those, like Capello, who bang on about Terry being innocent until proved guilty, as if it had slipped all our attention, fail to see that no-one has suggested Terry is guilty. This decision is a finely-balanced judgement call about what is appropriate.
Whether Terry is proved innocent or guilty in July is irrelevant to the decision taken last week which had to be made on the situation as it stands. It would be nice if there was a simple rulebook that the FA could refer to in these moments of crisis but there is not and even if there was, it would not cover every pickle that the modern footballer conspires to get himself in.
The FA made the right decision to take the captaincy off Terry on Thursday and it is still the right decision today. Capello is an employee of the FA and he has to understand that there are certain decisions that cannot simply be left to him.
It would indeed be wonderful to have the kind of chief executive/manager relationship that exists at Manchester United between David Gill (also on the FA board) and Sir Alex Ferguson, as Gary Neville pointed out in his newspaper column yesterday. But that scenario is impossible to replicate within the FA, and Capello has to deal with the situation as it stands.
The friendly against Holland on 29 February is looming for the FA. If they do not have Capello's assurance by then that he accepts their decision then there really is no point him continuing. It would be a pity to part on these terms but it would be worse for England to go into the Euros with a mutinous manager.
Doubtless this looks to other big football nations in Europe like a typically English kind of mess. But it need not be as long as Capello accepts that a decision has been made for the best. No doubt he wonders how his employers refuse to make life easy for themselves. But given the circumstances the game found itself in last week, that is a strength, not a weakness.
Wenger's £15m gamble on Oxlade is paying off
The curious thing about the signing of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain by Arsenal in the summer was that Manchester United were understood to have made an enquiry about the player but baulked at the price, £15m, being quoted for a teenager who had only ever played in League One.
As it turns out, Arsene Wenger was prepared to pay when other, more free-spending clubs, would not take the risk. Oxlade-Chamberlain is already worth £15m having proved beyond doubt that he is capable of making the step up to the top level, as demonstrated once again by his two goals on Saturday. Wenger will outbid others on occasion. And he seems all the more determined if it is an unproven teenager for whom he is bidding.
Keane's old roll is starting to look stale
There is much to be admired about the Indian summer Robbie Keane is enjoying on loan at Aston Villa, not least the manner in which he took his goal against Newcastle United yesterday.
Watching him do the "trademark" cartwheel and forward-roll goal celebration – followed by that thing with his fingers – you had to wonder if Keane might be a bit old for all that lark. His celebration might have looked novel back in the 1990s but in these days when the likes of Nani can do three or four tumbles, or launch himself backwards from a standing position, the old forward roll feels a bit redundant.Reuse content