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The Toe Poke
By ESPN Staff

Terry favourite to lead new England

John Terry is favourite to become England captain following David Beckham's decision to quit the role after five and a half years in the aftermath of England's World Cup exit.

The Chelsea defender was not even considered for the last World Cup because of an affray charge hanging over him following an incident at a West London nightlead.

He was subsequently cleared and has reinvented himself off the pitch and is likely to be rewarded with the captain's armband by Sven-Goran Eriksson's successor, Steve McClaren.

Steven Gerrard is second favourite and has been inspirational as Liverpool skipper.

Terry, 25, who made his full debut for his country less than three years ago, has captained Chelsea to the two Premiership title triumphs under Jose Mourinho.

Significantly, when Beckham was substituted through illness against Ecuador a week ago, it was Terry who took charge for the closing minutes of the second-round win.

Gary Neville was captain against Portugal on Saturday when Beckham came of injured, but by his own admission was probably taking part in his last World Cup, and McClaren will want someone as his on-field lieutenant who will be around for the long term.

It was tearful Beckham who announced his resignation in a prepared statement before flying back to England with the rest of his team-mates after losing on penalties to Portugal in Gelsenkirchen.

But he made it clear the 'most difficult decision of my career to date' had been decided some time before he informed Eriksson on Sunday morning.

He said: 'On 15 November 2000, Peter Taylor gave me the greatest honour of my career in making me captain of England and fulfilling my childhood dream.

'Now nearly six years later, having been captain for 58 of my 94 caps, I feel the time is right to pass on the armband as we enter a new era under Steve McClaren.

'It has been an honour and a privilege to captain our country and I want to stress that I wish to continue to play for England and look forward to helping both the new captain and Steve McClaren in any way I can.

'I came to this decision some time ago but I hoped to announce it on the back of a successful World Cup, but sadly that wasn't to be.

'This decision has been the most difficult of my career to date. But after discussing it with my family and those closest to me, I feel the time is right.

'I wish to thank all the players for their support during my time as captain as well as Peter Taylor, Sven and all the coaches.

'I would also like to thank the press and of course the England supporters who have been great to me and to my team-mates. I want them to know that for me it's been an absolute honour.

'Finally, I have lived the dream. I am extremely proud to have worn the armband and been captain of England and for that I will always be grateful.'

Eriksson would not comment who may replace Beckham but believes McClaren will have many worthy candidates to consider.

He said: 'I think David has been a very good captain and it was absolutely the right decision to make him captain.

'He did good work always. He has been very proud of doing the job. I was a little bit disappointed when he told me his decision to finish just before he announced it.

'I don't know why he has quit. He has been captain for five and a half years and maybe he felt it was time.

'You have to respect that and that's it. He has been good.

'I think you will soon have a press conference with Steve McClaren and I think he has a lot of choices of who can be captain. There are many.'