The snow still sits in mounds around Warsaw and the temperature is well below freezing, which was why Slaven Bilic did not stop for long yesterday when he left the Palace of Culture after the Euro 2012 draw. But the Croatia coach was one of the few national team managers who was prepared to give an opinion on the John Terry scandal.
Bilic has seen the worst of England under Terry's captaincy and the very best. In the last qualifying campaign for a European Championships, his team beat Steve McClaren's England twice – the second occasion at Wembley in November 2007, when Terry was among the key players injured. More recently, Capello's resurgent England team have twice beaten Croatia, including a 4-1 win in Zagreb, to eliminate them from qualifying for the World Cup this summer.
Asked how he thought Terry's loss of the England captaincy would affect the player, Bilic said: "John Terry is a tiger, he is a lion and always will be for his team, there is no doubt about that. He is just a leader. Some players need the push of the armband to be a captain, to be an authority and gain that from the rest of the players and a leader for the rest of the team, but not John Terry.
"He has never needed that. He is a natural leader, anyway. He can still be that kind of player for England this summer in the World Cup. It will not affect him.
"He was the leader on the pitch for Chelsea right from the beginning, long before he became the captain of the club. It is the way he plays and he always will show that leadership on the pitch, whether he is the captain or not. I have no worries about that. [Fabio] Capello knows that as well."
It was typical Bilic, straightforward and from the heart, but unfortunately the problem of Terry and England is a bit more complicated than that. Capello was unwilling to discuss his sacking of the England captain until he was well away from the television cameras and even then it was brief. For Capello, there is still unfinished business on this matter, most importantly when he speaks to his squad next month.
Surrounded by television cameras, Capello refused to discuss the matter – "It has been a normal week for me," he said – instead preferring to talk about yet another cushy draw for his England team. Switzerland may have qualified for the World Cup finals but they have proved easy pickings for England in the past. Bulgaria are ranked 30th in the world. Montenegro, ranked 72nd, are managed by Niko Kranjcar's father Zlatko. Wales are six places below them.
There are no guarantees the Italian will still be in charge of the national team after the World Cup finals. But on a Football Association salary of £4.8m a year, and a qualifying draw like that, it will take a very attractive offer to prise Capello away.
Four years ago at the qualifying draw for Euro 2008, Sven Goran Eriksson said he had left his successor a real gift. By then the Swede was already a dead man walking, due to leave after the World Cup following the embarrassment of the fake Sheikh scandal. "I think England should be rather happy about this draw – it could be much worse," the Swede said at the time. Two years on and England had failed to qualify.
Capello's knowledge of Welsh football was boosted considerably by a conversation with Wales manager John Toshack on the flight to Poland although whether he knew much about the likes of Robert Earnshaw and Simon Church before then, one can only speculate. Asked what he thought of the group, Capello talked through the different countries.
"Every game will be really tough, it will be interesting," he said. "It will be impossible for us to play even one game relaxed. I was speaking to Toshack on the plane and he was telling me how Wales are a young team. Their average age is 22-year-old.
"Switzerland will be really tough. My first game was against Switzerland [in February 2008] and we have moved along since then. From that match I remember I was really happy after seeing them [my players] play in training, but it was not the same in the match.
"In that game the players were not the same players out on the pitch that I saw in training. I think, when we play Switzerland again, we will show that we have progressed since my first game in charge. I know a lot of Welsh players – they are good, young players. It will be interesting."
By the time Euro 2012 qualifying starts next autumn, we will have a much better idea of what kind of international coach Capello is and whether this England team are likely to fulfil their potential. If they are world champions by then, even the Terry saga will be forgotten.Reuse content