Tuesday, March 22, 2011

England's - and Capello's - Captaincy Dilemma

As much as John Terry is unlikeable, he is a good on-field leader. This is why Fabio Capello performed a back-flip this week by announcing his reinstatement as England captain. It seems Terry, who was stripped of his title last year amidst a swarm of accusations about his private life, is the least of eleven evils. In a news conference on Tuesday, Terry admitted to "not being everyone's cup of tea". In a poll today on The Guardian's website, apparently he's only 15.9%'s beverage of choice.

There's almost no question the Chelsea skipper has all the best capabilities for the job - experience leading a team to trophies, is the biggest alpha-dog available to England, is amongst the best central defenders in the country and he'd look great with a bandaged head, Terry Butcher-style. Could you picture Rio Ferdinand or Matthew Upson standing in front of Joe Hart, screaming "You Shall Not Pass!" like Gandalf ? No, I couldn't either. In fact, on racking my brains for at least a minute, the only other Englishman I can think of who fits both the Butcher and Gandalf criteria is West Ham's Scott Parker.

There's a good argument that no defender or midfielder regularly available to England inspires like Terry. The only forward who does so is Wayne Rooney, who - though improving - is enduring probably his worst season ever and boasts off-field decisions which make those of the newly reinstated captain seem positively Yoda-like. England, it seems, are bereft of leaders worthy of the armband and this has forced a Capello flip-flop, which also sounds like a rather nice brand of ice-cream. All the positive steps the Italian was supposed to bring have now sunk finally, inexorably under a pile of Nutella, French Underwear Models and Boredom. The famous Capello discipline has, sadly, failed.

Capello was brought in to administer England for a number of reasons. Firstly, he has won everywhere he's been. This leads straight onto the second reason - his success and manner made him the best qualified choice to manage a nation suffering through a trophy drought now forty-five years long. That's thirty-nine years longer than Arsenal's current drought, ten years longer than City's dry spell and was three years shorter than Birmingham City's before the League Cup. Finally, it was thought that Capello's rigid sense of discipline would allow for better performances after the pally reign of Schteve McClaren turned into schemozzle.

The Three Lions responded magnificently early in the Italian's reign but this petered out with an awful World Cup during which there were rumours of a rebellion led by Terry. It's beginning to seem though nothing totally defeated him before, Capello has finally met his match with this group. It's fitting commentary that a man renowned for strong principles has perhaps been challenged most strongly - and terminally - by this group of players whose ideals often remain ... fluid.

Terry was stripped of the captaincy for personal rather than professional reasons. At the time, it was thought unlikely he would regain the position - the colossus centre-back gave way to his ball-playing counterpart Rio Ferdinand, who has rarely been healthy since. Rumours persist that he may never be fully healthy again. The gaffer manager (doesn't seem like the type to enjoy the title "gaffer", does he?) was then forced to reconsider his options and, probable personality issues and all, John Terry is the outstanding candidate.

Every other Three Lions regular - Ferdinand, A. Cole, Lampard, Gerrard, Hart, Rooney, Barry, Milner - either doesn't have the force of personality to be the dressing room alpha dog or the talent to justify the appointment. Those who do have the personality and skills either boast injury reports the length of Terry Butcher's bandage or a personal life making Terry's seem meek in comparison. As much as it's probable Capello would have liked to move forward, the only younger prospects worthy of regular England consideration are Jack Wilshere and Andy Carroll. The manager's hands were tied on this one - it's not a back-flip solely because he changed his mind, simply that there are no more options left to him.

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