Capello digs a deeper hole
The furore over the England captaincy has bemused Fabio Capello and his acolyte Franco Baldini ever since they arrived in 2008.
The now inevitable move to hand the armband back to John Terry on a permanent basis will not be popular among supporters, while the media storm it has created will have Capello bewildered once more.
Capello has been public enemy number one for most of the leading writers on the daily newspapers since the calamitous World Cup campaign. The press believes that reinstating Terry is some kind of betrayal to Rio Ferdinand, when in truth it is being used as another stick to beat the coach with.
Some of the things being written are astounding, with Capello even criticised for suggesting his brightest young prospect, Jack Wilshere, could one day be captain. It is now unacceptable to hail a player considered to be the future of the national game as an eventual leader and icon. If anyone other than Capello had uttered such words he would not be accused of piling pressure on young shoulders.
In other countries, such as Capello's native Italy, the issue of the national captaincy may be seen as a minor distraction rather than a major talking point; in England the same role comes with prestige and honour. Capello's greatest failing, away from team selection, is his failure to grasp this issue and stubbornly treat it as a passing nuisance.
Capello used an odd trial process to find his first England captain - Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard, David Beckham and Gareth Barry all wore the armband in his opening friendlies. The armband moved around on rotation in the last friendly in Denmark, first worn by Lampard and then by Ashley Cole and finally Barry as each skipper was substituted.
Sven Goran Eriksson, in June 2003 during a friendly against Serbia & Montenegro, showed this attitude to the captaincy is not just limited to Italian managers. Michael Owen began the match as captain before being taken off at half-time, which led to Emile Heskey becoming skipper. As the subs continued there was the unimaginable sight of Phil Neville and Jamie Carragher as England captain. The Sun ran with the headline 'Skipper ripper'.
One-time talismanic captain Bryan Robson said after that game: "It demeans what the whole meaning of what skipper is all about. I think having four captains is demeaning to the armband. I can't imagine the public particularly like it either. Being captain of your country, as I know, is a fantastic honour but it doesn't look very good when so many people in one game get to do it."
That Capello still fails to understand this after two years in the job says a lot about why he has lost the media. It gives the impression of a man paid vast amounts of money in one of the most coveted jobs the sport has to offer in this country, who remains completely detached from both its traditions and a refusal to change his ways to suit the culture. He is not going to change now as the clock ticks down to the end of his lucrative contract after Euro 2012.
Ignoring the romantic notion of the captaincy in England, is Capello actually doing the right thing? Ferdinand probably does not make the best England captain, but it is the U-turn over Terry that is probably most damaging.
Add the timing, just days before a crucial European qualifier in Wales when Capello will be without the injured Ferdinand and Gerrard. Capello could simply have made Terry skipper for this game and monitored the fall-out without any need to get embroiled in yet another captaincy debate. The chance to slide Terry back into the role full-time has been missed.
And with Terry hardly a man with the same public image of previous incumbents such as Bobby Moore, Beckham and Robson, the public are not going to welcome him back with open arms.
It is reported that Ferdinand is "seething" that Capello is going to take the captaincy from him, but he is almost continuously injured for international duty, and United boss Sir Alex Ferguson is unlikely to allow one of his key players to jet off for friendlies if he has any kind of niggle in the future.
England have played 13 games since Ferdinand was made captain on February 5 last year but he has been available for just four of those games. Gerrard was skipper at the World Cup finals with Ferdinand injured.
The only competitive game Ferdinand has been available for was the dismal goalless draw with Montenegro at Wembley in October - a game Terry missed and avoided such tarnishing.
The more measured among us may deduce that Capello is purely doing what is in the best interests of the team, naming a captain who is going to be available for most of the games so ensuring continuity. Essentially, by leaving Ferdinand in the role he would be sanctioning a continued rotation based purely on fitness.
However, Terry's own long-term back problem is hardly going to guarantee his availability for every England international. Lampard cannot be seen as a guaranteed selection either, which leaves Capello's options thin on the ground. At least Terry is a proven leader, unlike Ferdinand.
Have any of Capello's detractors actually considered who would make the best England captain? Probably not.
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