Sam Wallace: Forget the scandal – what is best for the England team is all that matters

Capello is not a manager who will be spooked into dancing to someone else's agenda

It will not be the sex that threatens John Terry's captaincy of the England team. The greatest threat to him is the scandal that is stomping along in its wake.

Not just any scandal, of course, but an absolute monster of greed and betrayal; a Premier League-sized, roof-raising, rip-snorting, gold-plated behemoth of a scandal. The clamour for Terry's sacking is growing. The reality, however, is a lot more complicated.

As with many modern scandals, it is not the act itself but the media firestorm that follows it that does for the protagonists. Alastair Campbell theorised, as Tony Blair's director of communications, that when a story reached a certain critical pitch and refused to go away then a resignation was required. If, for nothing else, to lance the boil and let everyone get on with their jobs.

As the pressure grows on Terry and every question in every Fabio Capello press conference relates to the scandal, and the World Cup draws closer, so the stakes are raised. Does Capello take the Campbell approach and decide that a sacrifice is needed so that everyone can move on? Because right now, Terrygate has pitched its tents on every front page and is refusing to budge. This is not the place for a debate on the attitudes of the British media towards a story of this nature. It is enough to say that Terry knew the territory when he got the job and while he was not obliged to be blameless in his life, he did have a responsibility not to drag the England team and its manager into these kind of episodes.

There are two important parts to the allegation that Terry had an affair with Vanessa Perroncel, the ex-fiancée of Terry's England team-mate and erstwhile friend Wayne Bridge and mother of Bridge's child. The first relates directly to Terry's treatment of Bridge and how that reflects on his character. The second is how Terry's actions change his relationship with his fellow England players.

It is fair to say that to carry on a relationship with a friend's ex, especially when that friend has been through a difficult separation from her, is callous and unthinking. It is unpleasant and humiliating for Bridge, especially in the unreconstructed world of the football dressing room – and Terry would know this. Bridge would justifiably not want anything more to do with Terry.

To do so says something about Terry's character, which relates to his standing among his England team-mates. There is a strong sense from some of the players that they are appalled at his behaviour, because unlike so many footballers' indiscretions this relates to a team-mate and a sense of betrayal. That in turn affects his capacity to be captain.

However, the notion that the England players cannot play in the same team as someone they do not like is ludicrous. Like any workplace, football clubs and national teams have their fair share of mistrust, dislike and petty jealousies. Just because players hug each other after goals, does not mean they are best mates. With his tendency to be flash and brash, Terry has never been a particularly popular England captain.

Footballers, however, tend towards the pragmatic in their outlook on life. Their relatively short careers are crammed so full of highs and lows that they have no other option. It is fair to surmise that the England players, like the rest of us, are secretly enjoying the revelations and the gossip, but it is hard to imagine any of them leading a coup against Terry come the Egypt game in March.

The question for Capello is whether he is prepared to take these delicate issues and pick them apart. Or whether he considers the size and scope of this very English scandal, and its omnipresence in the newspapers, and feels he must act according to a bigger picture. By sacking Terry he would, with one stroke, cut out the noise currently surrounding the England team as they approach the World Cup finals.

Terry has done some very foolish things in the last year. There has been the sense of a man desperate to milk the England captaincy for all it is worth financially. He used Manchester City's interest in him over the summer to leverage a stupendous new contract while publicly denying he was ever interested in leaving Chelsea (although he is not the first to do that).

He gives the appearance of a man who, despite his age, 29, and his seniority still leads a life on the edge, addicted to risk. He is not a footballer who seems to have learnt from the mistakes of his youth.

But to start sacking England captains on the basis of sexual indiscretions in their private lives is a dangerous business. It sets the bar rather high for his successor, and looking at the list of possible replacements you wonder which of them do not have a few skeletons in the cupboard.

Capello has to decide if the overlap between Terry's alleged relationship with Perroncel, the connection with Bridge and his position as a captain makes this a different matter altogether. If he believes that keeping him as captain will materially affect the team's performance on the pitch for the worse then he has to make a change. But I seriously doubt that to be the case.

As for the scandal itself, Capello is not a man afraid of the white heat of public opinion. He is not an inexperienced young manager who will be spooked into dancing to someone else's agenda. Part of me thinks he will return from Switzerland this week, tell everyone to calm down and announce that nothing is going to change.

Once he has made his mind up about something, Capello tends to deploy his most devastating weapon against the press: he misunderstands our questions and gives vague, almost incomprehensible answers. As a defence mechanism, it is virtually unplayable.

For all his flaws as a person, Terry has actually been a decent England captain on the pitch. He was unlucky in the failed Euro 2008 qualifying campaign, missing the crucial Russia and Croatia games because of a fragment floating in his knee.

When Capello decided to re-audition for the captaincy, Terry knuckled down and impressed his new manager. There have been many occasions when he has had injections to play in fairly innocuous games for England.

In terms of betrayal, the key person Terry has to answer to is his wife (although the people who gave him that Dad of the Year award are probably feeling pretty cheated right now). What goes on between Terry and his wife is, quite frankly, no one else's business.

No footballer should be immune from the consequences of his behaviour off the pitch because of his importance on it. Terry has done many daft things, some of them greedy and this latest alleged one just plain cruel. But this decision should be made according to what is best for the England team, not to silence the roar of the scandal.

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
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003