THIRTEEN MONTHS AFTER being stripped of the England captaincy, John Terry knows he will be the fall-guy if the team’s results take a turn for the worse after regaining the armband.
England’s build-up to Saturday’s 2012 European Championship qualifier against Wales has been overshadowed by coach Fabio Capello’s decision to restore the captaincy to Terry, having previously removed it following newspaper allegations about the Chelsea defender’s private life.
“I’m not daft,” Terry said ahead of the trip across England’s western border to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. “If we go there and win the game, it’ll be a great stepping stone for us. If we don’t get the right result, I know where the fingers will be pointing. I’m not silly. I’m a grown man and I’m prepared to deal with that.”
The captain of a team is usually a unifying force. Not so with England, where Terry accepts he’s “not going to be everybody’s cup of tea. It’s not important at any football club and we are no different here,” he said.
“There are certain players at clubs who don’t get on with each other. We know that — that’s life.”
There were no dissenters, however, at training on Tuesday morning in front of Capello.
“He called us together, he spoke, saying ‘John will be permanent captain again, He’s done well on and off the field over the last year. Anyone got any questions or things to say?,’” Terry recalled. “No one said anything … so I’ll respect anyone who comes to me personally and we deal with it one on one.”
But facing his teammates again as captain and a barrage of hostile media questions made Terry anxious.
“I had the worst night’s sleep ever (on Monday),” Terry said. “I was pretty nervous to be honest. Coming out today and having to deal with the questions and stuff like that. It was like the first day back at school, really — an intimidating thing, even though I’ve been in this position many times before.”
Terry maintained that Rio Ferdinand is not bitter despite his reign as captain lasting just 13 months. Injuries have restricted Ferdinand to just four England appearances in that time, with the defender missing the entire World Cup and now set to miss the rest of this season.
Terry would have skippered England in South Africa had newspapers not published allegations in February 2010 that he had an affair with teammate Wayne Bridge’s former girlfriend.
That allegations led to Bridge quitting international football and Terry is still refusing to make peace with the left back, who infamously refused to shake hands with him when they met on the pitch before a Premier League match.
“No,” Terry bluntly responded when asked if he had a message Tuesday for Bridge.
Being removed from a football role for moral reasons still sits uncomfortably with Terry. Capello complained he was no longer a role model for youngsters.
“I didn’t agree with the decision, which I told them (Capello and general manager Franco Baldini) face to face, but I said I respected their decision and I’ll continue to work hard,” Terry recalled. “But once they spoke to me — and once again it’s difficult for legal reasons to go into detail — I just felt I didn’t deserve to lose the armband.”
While accepting no blame for the initial controversy, Terry believes he has changed. He said:
“I’d like to think I’ve personally kept my head down. As we get older, we live and learn, we move on. As a man, as a player, we can see I’ve moved on, on and off the field.”
But the U-turn has prompted suggestions that Capello’s authority — already diminished after a dismal World Cup — has faded further.
“Capello clearly felt Terry’s reputation or behavior did not make him an appropriate captain for England, so he took his decision,” Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish wrote at the weekend. “Where the confusion lies is he has now overturned that decision. It raises a lot of questions. If John was an unsuitable captain a year ago, what has changed now?”
What is so baffling is that Capello has put his neck on the line by reinstating Terry to the captaincy when the Italian had previously dismissed the importance of a job that is normally handed to the most-capped player in his homeland.
“Different countries have different attitudes,” Terry said. “Carlo (Ancelotti) doesn’t understand it at Chelsea, either. He would otherwise give someone the armband and just tell them to get on with it. Italians are very different.”