Terry Stripped Of England Captaincy - Did The FA Have A Choice?

posted 15 May 2012, 15:58 by Richard Brook
Originally posted at: bit.ly/y8Vlvm

The decision to strip John Terry of the England captaincy may have angered manager Fabio Capello, and prompted the Chelsea fans to sing “There’s only one England captain”, but did the Football Association have any real alternative to this course of action, and where does all this leave Terry himself?

Ask any English schoolboy you can find kicking a ball, what their dream is and they will answer, beamingly, ‘To be England captain’, so ingrained is this position in the national psyche. Watch any post-match interview with a first time captain of our national side and, with eyes similarly beaming, they will describe the experience as “a great honour”. That is exactly what the role of England captain is all about. Honour.

Honour, in footballing terms, does not end with leadership of your team mates and playing with pride. This is especially true in the modern era, where footballers are held up as role models, and their every move on and off the field are scrutinized under a zoom lens.

As England captain there exists a responsibility to behave honourably. Bobby Moore, and more latterly, captains like Lineker and Shearer provide great examples of what an England captain should be. The ultimate sporting representative of our country.

There is nothing honourable about the actions Terry is accused of. It is important to note the word ‘accused’ here. It is too easy to condemn the FA’s decision as undermining the fundamental principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty.

Of course he is innocent until proven guilty. Indeed the ideal situation is that Terry be acquitted having proven irrefutably that he is not guilty of the offence. It is important though, to retain a sense of perspective: There is no erosion of our core constitutional values here. The discussion is of Terry losing the position of England captain not losing his personal liberty.

Terry is partly the victim of an, arguably outdated, perception in the international community that English football is surrounded by a culture of hooliganism and racism. Rightly or wrongly, and to a lesser or greater degree, the perception still exists.

It seems highly likely that the image presented to the world, by having our national team led out by a player at the heart of a controversy of this nature, will have been a consideration for the FA in taking this decision.

Terry would of course come up against players and other captains of different ethnicities were he to continue to captain England. What message do we send to them if we continue to hold him up as the leader of choice for our national team, and it were later proved in a court of law that the allegations had substance?

By stripping Terry of the armband the FA are playing it safe. Should Terry be vindicated then the loss of his position as captain will be an entirely personal, professional tragedy of lost time in an already short career. The benefit will be the message sent to English football and the world, as to how seriously the FA takes the general issue of racism.

If anything, the FA’s decision could be described as a halfway house. After all if a person’s character is in sufficient doubt to be considered unsuitable to represent the country as a captain, then many of the arguments set out above could apply to representing the country as a player.

So should Terry be included in the England squad in the foreseeable future?

Aside from moralistic hypothesising, there are more practical issues to consider. The other player involved in the row being Anton Ferdinand, brother of Terry’s England colleague Rio. With the European Championships just around the corner, do England really want to potentially split the dressing room, never mind a central defensive partnership, over such a divisive issue?

If Terry was left out over this, it is worth remembering that by the time of the 2014 World Cup he will be in his 34th year. This isn’t an age that would completely preclude involvement, but given that his lack of pace was cause for debate in the lead up to South Africa 2010 it seems unlikely that he will be involved.

If England are building up to a World Cup without Terry, then this year’s European Championships would have been his international farewell.

It is a terrible shame that Terry’s chance to clear his name has had to be set for the day after Euro 2012 concludes, but such is the practicality of assembling footballers to give evidence. It could potentially prove to be a sad end to an innocent man’s international career.

If only the trial could take place tomorrow, and we could know once and for all. While as things stand the FA have made the only decision available to them over the armband, if you take away this one doubt it is hard to argue with the Chelsea fan’s, “There’s only one England captain”.