Tuesday 19 August ~
Since the first England squad of the new season was announced over the weekend, the football press have been fretting over who should be the captain. Fabio Capello has become aware of the strange hold this issue has over many football journalists and has opted to indulge it. Shortly after becoming England manager, he announced that the armband would be handed on a trial basis to a few likely candidates then a final decision would be made before the start of the World Cup qualifiers in September. That time has almost come and the field has been reduced to two: John Terry and Rio Ferdinand. Fabio will announce his decision to the press at lunchtime today and will then introduce the winner of Mr Armband 2008-09 from behind a curtain. Both candidates having had a case made for them in the media in much the same way that Big Brother contestants are talked up by their respective backers.
Tony Adams has put his arm up on behalf of John Terry on the basis that he can “organise and lead better than anyone else”. Strength of character is taken to be one of Terry’s principal assets. But this is the same player who suffered an emotional collapse after missing decisive penalty in the 2008 Champions League final, something he said he still thinks about every day. Rio Ferdinand is a much less demonstrative figure than Terry and by general consensus a slightly better footballer. If he gets the nod, his supporters say, that will represent a positive step away from the blood and thunder approach that has blighted England national teams for decades.
However Ferdinand is only third in captaincy pecking order at Man Utd, behind Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, with Sir Alex Ferguson seemingly content to select his captain on the basis of seniority (albeit while overlooking Paul Scholes). Sir Alex is clearly a motivational expert but he doesn’t seem to think that captaincy of his teams matters overly – the players are expected to perform irrespective of who happens to be doing most of the clapping at set pieces. England players have consistently demonstrated an inability to cope with pressure of expectation, something that Joe Cole ruefully acknowledges while talking about “Team GB” achievements in Beijing. The captaincy will only cease to be an issue when England make significant progress – if the individual performers are good enough it really doesn’t matter who leads them out.