Should England bring John Terry back?

He is an option says Sam Wallace but Glenn Moore believes Terry is the past as England build for 2016

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The Independent Football


Sam Wallace: With such a shallow pool of talent, they cannot afford the principles that would exclude him

In an ideal world, Roy Hodgson would respond to John Terry's suggestion that he returns to international football with a polite refusal and a determination to move on with the next generation to the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.

The decision made by Terry in September to withdraw his services was a big one. Since then he has missed seven games, five of them World Cup qualifiers in which England have tossed away six points. For instance, there is no doubt that his country could have done with him against Montenegro last month. Yet he had walked away.

People feel strongly about international football. There is a school of thought – right in my view – that it should be managers, not players, who call time on international playing careers. Whatever he may or may not have been promised about his disciplinary commission hearing in September, Terry took his ball home.

Unfortunately, however, the job of England manager requires a level of pragmatism that requires one to beg, bully and cajole the national team and its dysfunctional cast of characters over the line to qualification for major tournaments. If Hodgson does not reach the next World Cup – and there can be no guarantees – he will be sacked.

When he recalls the defensive shambles of the second half in Podgorica when England fell back against Montenegro, to the point that conceding an equaliser felt inevitable, he will wonder what might have been different with Terry in the team. When he considers the possibility of another defensive injury crisis, he will again consider the usefulness of a 78-cap England veteran.

At this point it is the requirements of the job that take over. England would like to make it to Brazil without recalling Terry. But given the stakes for Hodgson – the difference between success and failure – he cannot afford to rule out the option.

England have four qualifiers remaining. Win them all and they will win Group H and progress smoothly to Brazil. The problem is that nothing in their form, including draws with Ukraine, Poland and Montenegro, suggests they have the capability to do so.

What look like small problems now – the indifferent form of Wayne Rooney, the potential operation for Steven Gerrard, the number of injury withdrawals the last time the team played – are the signs of a squad creaking under the strain. No one would suggest that Terry is the cure for all these ills, but he is another option.

Yes, it would sit more comfortably if the England team did not have to go about issuing pardons to those who had withdrawn their services. Sadly, the reality of Hodgson's ever-shallower pool of talent is that those are the kind of principles only available to nations with far greater resources than England.


Glenn Moore: England team represents the nation and terry is last person anyone would want as a role model

Quite what the Prime Minister, with his sudden interest in footballers as role models, will make of John Terry’s desire to represent his country again can only be imagined. Twice stripped of the national captaincy, once for racism, and embroiled in a variety of other controversies, from flogging  his box at Wembley to parking in a disabled bay, Terry is hardly a figure anyone would want their children to emulate.

This is relevant, as the England team represents the nation, but it is not the only reason Terry’s offer to return to the fold should be rejected. To recall the 32-year-old centre-back would be a backward step. In his prime, Terry was one of the best defenders in Europe, outstanding for club and country over several seasons, but that prime is past. Slowing, troubled by injuries, he is no longer a fixture in the Chelsea team.

Terry is also a hugely divisive figure, splitting the squad at the 2010 World Cup and forcing  Roy Hodgson to omit Rio Ferdinand at Euro 2012. He  seems to regard himself as captain even when not wearing the armband and his recall could undermine Steven Gerrard, who is finally blossoming in the role. In 2010, when he was a reluctant skipper, Gerrard watched on television with disbelief when Terry, claiming to represent the senior pros, attacked Fabio Capello’s tactics.

It is not hard to see why Hodgson would be tempted to play Terry on a short-term basis. It is his head on the block if England fail to reach Brazil. The England manager likes one of his centre-halves to be a dominant type – his first signing at Fulham was Brede Hangeland – and he chose Terry ahead of Ferdinand at Euro 2012 on that basis.

However, England’s next  competitive match is  in September. Who knows if Terry will be fit, in form, and playing regularly then? Before then there are friendlies against Republic of Ireland, Brazil and Scotland. Terry should be omitted from them all – as should Ferdinand after his own recent withdrawal – while Phil Jones, Gary Cahill,  Phil Jagielka, Chris Smalling  and Steven Caulker are given more experience. What would recalling Terry do for their self-belief?  

Terry is the past. England are building a team to have a tilt at winning the European Championship in 2016 – which is when Hodgson is contracted to. Obviously it is desirable, even crucial, that England qualify for Brazil, but they will be outsiders at a tournament expected to be won by Argentina or Brazil, with Germany and Spain the most likely European contenders for glory.

France 2016 represents a much more feasible aim because of geography and the age profile of the England team. With that in mind, Terry should be given the usual response – “the door is always open” – and then ignored.