Tuesday, August 19, 2008

John Terry Should Not Be England's Captain

I'm sure you've all heard it by now: England manager Fabio Capello named John Terry captain of the Three Lions today.

If you believe the numerous media reports, the strong favorite to be handed the armband on a permanent basis was Manchester United center back Rio Ferdinand, whose steady, and at times fantastic, play tends to greatly overshadow his off-field transgressions over the years in the minds of many England fans. I've already dedicated a post as to why I didn't think Ferdinand should've even been considered (http://englishsoccertalk.blogspot.com/2008/03/rio-tabbed-as-england-captain-becks.html) for the captaincy, so I won't go into that again. Suffice it to say that I'm glad he was passed over by Capello, but I'm disappointed that he was, in fact, named vice-captain. Ferdinand is a very good player, but he doesn't deserve to lead out his country.

Again going by the media's prediction, Terry was the second choice for this honor. In that same post I highlighted above, I was all for the Chelsea central defender being given another chance to skip England when Capello was still rotating the captaincy in his first few games as manager. The credentials are there -- club captain, England's official captain for 14 games (though he missed five others due to injury), PFA Player of the Year for the 2004-2005 Premiership season, inclusion in the World Cup 2006 squad of the tournament, and two-time Premiership winner at Chelsea, among others. I didn't think then that he should be the permanent captain, but based on his past achievements on the field and his form at that particular time, I was in favor of him getting a sort of ceremonial final run-out with the armband.

Like Ferdinand, Terry has been responsible for a fair bit of controversy off the field. The day after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, Terry and a couple teammates, including Frank Lampard, went on a drunken binge in a hotel filled with American tourists and made insensitive, inflammatory remarks about the tragedy in New York City, stripping naked at the scene as well. Terry was fined by Chelsea. He spent a night in jail in 2002 after his involvement in a fracas at a London nightclub which left a doorman injured, although to be fair, Terry was later cleared of all charges. He was accused of making a disparaging racial remark towards an England teammate and Tottenham player after being sent off in Chelsea's 2-1 loss to Tottenham in 2006. He parked his expensive car in a handicapped spot in the middle of March, which may not seem like too big of a deal, but it symbolizes his arrogant attitude and blatant disrespect -- "I'm John Terry, I can park where I want. Why should I walk an extra two feet into the store when I can be lazy and make it easier for myself?" He is a known high-stakes gambler, and, like Wayne Rooney, has admitted to cheating on his significant other.

I understand that what a player does away from the field is his business. Still, being a captain has as much to do with your qualities as a person and your leadership ability as it does with what you bring to the game itself. Terry can motivate his teammates, he can get them up to put in a good performance. When things don't go his or his team's way, however, you see a petulant, juvenile side of Terry that suggests he has no business representing England as captain.

Let's see...there's the time Terry literally tried to grab a red card out of referee Mike Dean's hand in a game against Manchester United last September, again showing his disrespect for authority. Or the time he publicly questioned Graham Poll's integrity after that game against Spurs, for which he was found guilty of misconduct by the FA. And the numerous occasions in which Terry has physically accosted and intimidated referees when a big decision goes against him or Chelsea. Terry will make contact with officials, he'll bump them, he'll confront them, and instead of stopping his teammates when they do the same thing (which they're known for at Chelsea), he'll just jump in and do it himself. Remember when Ashley Cole turned his back on Mike Riley in a game against Tottenham last season? Cole had been told and signalled to come to Riley and receive his yellow card for a sliding challenge. Terry did nothing to help the situation like a captain should do.

Terry also isn't the same player he was back when he collected those awards I mentioned earlier. He's injury-prone now, and that's clearly affected the way he goes about his duty at center back. He seems a bit hesitant to get stuck into a challenge. He's still a presence in the air, but doesn't go up for balls any more than he actually has to. In the biggest game of his life, last season's Champions League final, he missed what would have been the trophy-winning PK in the shootout.

No, Capello made a mistake in appointing Terry as England's captain. He had his chance in the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign and didn't get it done.

I’ve said it several times before, and I’ll say it again: Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard was the only choice for the role in my mind. He is England’s best overall player, taking into account what he does both offensively and defensively. I can’t count how many times he’s put Liverpool on his shoulders and single-handedly carried them to victory in a game they needed to have. If it wasn’t for Gerrard, there’s no way Liverpool wins the ‘04-’05 Champions League final against AC Milan or the ‘05-’06 FA Cup final against West Ham. He was responsible for those comebacks. He’s the only player to have scored in all four major finals (Carling Cup, FA Cup, Champions League, UEFA Cup) possible for an English-based player to take part in. This guy, unlike Lampard, who couldn’t play alongside Gerrard for England because of his one-dimensional style, is a great tackler and tracks back better than any attack-minded midfielder in the world. He is a big-time player and steps it up when it matters most.

The personal recognition he’s garnered — awarded the MBE for his services to the game, three times in the UEFA Team of the Year, Champions League MVP in ‘04-’05, PFA Player of the Year, PFA Young Player of the Year, six appearances in the PFA Team of the Year, three-time nomination for FIFA Player of the Year — and his accomplishments with Liverpool, where he’s won every major trophy except the Premiership, serve to show just how influential of a player Gerrard is. He is the heart and soul of his club and will occupy 20th place on the list of England’s most capped players (ahead of famous names like Terry, Paul Scholes, Ashley Cole, Alan Shearer, Kevin Keegan, Paul Gascoigne, and Lampard) after tomorrow’s friendly against the Czech Republic, his 68th appearance for his country. He’s well on his way to 100, an accomplishment reached only by five players at this point in time.

He stays squeaky-clean off the field, where he’s settled down with his wife and two young daughters, aside from one minor incident that was not his fault in early October last year. You won’t find Gerrard in the headlines for anything he does outside the lines, at least not for anything negative.

It’s a shame that Gerrard wasn’t given the armband by Capello, and I’m sure it’s partly because he isn’t a center back or goalkeeper, the two most common positions for captains. That notion makes sense to me only to a certain extent. If I was a manager, I’d want my central midfielder as my captain. Everything goes through him; he’s the team’s linchpin. He’s the one who distributes the ball, he’s the one who plays a total game — attack and defense.

Gerrard was Capello’s first captain as England boss; his team beat Switzerland 2-1 in a game in which Gerrard played very well and set up the winning goal. It’s downright criminal that he wasn’t at least named vice-captain, and it doesn’t make sense that Ferdinand would be placed into that role when he isn’t even the captain of his club and England’s captain will be right next to him in the defense. Coupled with the questionable squad call-ups made for this game, I’m starting to lose a little faith in Capello in whether he can turn this England team around. If it happens with Terry and Ferdinand at the helm, I can tell you that it will be in spite of them, not because of them.

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