David Flatman: England captain must lay down law – and make sure he doesn't break it

From the Front Row: There is a new element to the role now that can't be ignored: commercialism

Team sport has always reserved a position of great honour for one player who is deemed slightly more deserving than all the others. At any level, this position is one that comes with privilege and responsibility, and the person selected is deemed capable of shouldering all of this. But what does a captain actually do?

In football the top man is given an armband that, if sent off or substituted, he rips off in anger and flings at the next in line. He seems – as they all do – to shout a lot and dish out a decent number of rollickings, too. In terms of decision-making, the managers seem to run the tactical game from the touchline between pieces of gum, and every team has a designated penalty taker and free-kick expert.

Seemingly, all that is left is to lead by example. Love him or hate him, John Terry is so committed on the field and so regularly puts his whole body on the line that he looks the sort of man who absolutely must be captain. Off the field...not so much.

Cricket captains have far more to do. They need to be so tactically aware that they can change things in a moment, and they are also often involved in selection; giving teammates the good news or the tap on the shoulder. Come game time, they run the team.

The rugby captain falls somewhere between these two extremes. He must know the game well enough that, even with his head exploding with sweat, blood and fury, he can recognise what is and isn't working and make appropriate changes. He will receive help from his mates and the men on the sideline, but a good portion of nous will always make a better skipper.

Occasionally there will be a make-or-break decision; take the three points or stick it in the corner and back ourselves to get over the line? These calls actually don't come about very often, and there is always the opportunity to seek educated counsel. If there is a penalty that might be within range, the captain asks the man with the boot and he offers a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. Not that difficult.

The tough part of the job is, as with football, leading by example. For me, the captain must consistently be one of the best and most physically inspiring players in the team. He must be a natural, automatic selection and he must be a trier. If the super-skilled star of the team happens to have a ferocious work-rate to match, he might be a good fit as leader. But that desire to graft is priority number one; his efforts can never be questioned.

These days, though – especially as we wonder who will captain England – there is a whole new element to this role, and one that cannot be ignored: commercialism. If the phone of the chosen one was quiet before, it won't be for long. On top of non-negotiable assignments that come with the territory, there will be opportunities to earn big money in exchange for a portion of his free time, and this is where the right balance must be struck.

After the World Cup I read one or two suggestions that England's captain, Lewis Moody, put commercial activity before the team. I wasn't there but, as someone who knows him well, I feel absolutely confident that this is tosh. Watch the bloke play and tell me he lacks commitment.

However, this isn't the point. There will always be ultra-conservative players who regard any photo-shoot or endorsement as sacrilege, just as there will always be blokes who couldn't give a monkey's what anybody else is up to, so long as they give their all in training and matches. And, as much as we might wish our game immune, there will always be jealousy and resentment from those less in demand.

Ideally the new captain will set out a clear vision of what he thinks is acceptable and what is not. This might involve a stance on alcohol consumption, punctuality and appearance, training standards and commercial activity. Then, of course, he must ensure that he never breaks his own rules. With the scrutiny he will face, put frankly, he has to behave himself.

That extra pint might need palming off on to one of his props, that casual dinner date a night or two before a Test match might need to be scrapped in favour of some home cooking. His life will change, and he will regularly have to make difficult decisions when, previously, just existing seemed so easy.

But once he's out there, hammering into the Scots at Murrayfield on 4 February, he'll be doing so as England captain. When it's all going off and his team look to him for guidance – for inspiration – the notion of sacrifice will disappear into the turf. Whatever it takes, it's all worth it.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Johnny Handle, Northumberland, Ted Relph, President of Lakeland Dialect Society, and Sid Calderbank, Lancashire, founder of the National Dialect Day
newsMeet the enthusiasts determined to stop them dying out
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
St Peter’s Seminary in Cardross. Argyll, has remained derelict for more than 25 years
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game