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Saturday, March 26, 2011

PREMIER REPORT

Handling of captaincy shows Capello's people skills sorely lacking


LONDON — Fabio Capello has achieved what nobody thought possible, he has made supporters lose interest in England.

Christopher Davies

Capello is to man-management what Arnold Schwarzenegger is to Shakespeare.

Re-installing John Terry as captain is beyond belief, while the insensitive, tactless, crass manner he approached demoting Rio Ferdinand underlined — if underlining were necessary — his shortcomings when dealing with players.

A year ago, Terry was stripped of the captaincy after allegations about his private life. Yet nothing was ever proven or admitted about his reported affair with the ex-partner of former Chelsea teammate Wayne Bridge, so Terry could argue whether anyone should be punished for allegations.

However, the inevitable ax came down on Terry who, said Capello, will never captain England again.

It was an unnecessary statement and one that has been thrown back at Capello (which pre-supposes the manager cares). All the reasons that prompted Capello to replace Terry as captain remain today.

Farcical.

Two weeks ago, Capello leaked his plan to make Terry captain again to a newspaper, so the first Ferdinand knew he was about to lose the job he cherished so much was through the press. No phone call or visit from Capello.

Read all about it!

Class, pure class.

Franco Baldini, Capello's assistant, denied the story. Cue confusion but Capello, who cannot understand the English obsession with the captaincy, has guaranteed that the buildup to Saturday's Euro 2012 qualifier against Wales has been dominated by mainly negative coverage about who will lead the team in Cardiff.

True, Capello had a problem with Ferdinand, whose injury troubles continue. The Italian could and should have avoided all the controversy and pre-match distraction by simply handing the armband to Frank Lampard for the game against Wales and the friendly against Ghana on Tuesday (Steven Gerrard is recovering from groin surgery), assessing the situation at the end of the season.

Capello has created a huge problem when none existed, a master class of bumbling public relations.

The manager is leaving his post after the Euro 2012 finals, though he should have been sacked after the 2010 World Cup, but the Football Association did not want to pay out £12 million in compensation.

For most England followers that day cannot come soon enough, with Tottenham's Harry Redknapp the popular and most natural successor.

* * * * *

JOHN TERRY showed all the compassion of a hangman when talking about his return as England captain, a quality his supporters say that makes him a great leader.

He admitted he is "not everyone's cup of tea" his blinkered-vision answers were businesslike, lacking emotion or empathy.

He said all the right things, though cynics would question how genuine he was. Terry never felt he should have lost the armband in the first place, he has never hidden his desire to once again do "what I was born to do" and now Fabio Capello has given him a second chance.

The born-again captain's sense of injustice and bitterness were as obvious as the pride he has in captaining his country.

Will England perform better with Terry as captain?

No.

Will Terry play any differently with or without the arm band?

No.

How important is the captain?

Minimal, if you consider countries like Italy, France, Spain and Germany traditionally give the role to the most-capped player, the captain "chosen" by experience rather than personality or leadership qualities.

But someone must lead the side in Cardiff, and the best man for the job is Terry, according to Capello. In the hard world of professional football Terry would feel a little sympathy for the way Rio Ferdinand lost the job, but no more.

"The manager pulled the group together and asked if anybody had any questions and no one said a word," said Terry.

Reality dictates private thoughts are rarely made public under such circumstances.

Which player would want to be known as the one who questioned the manager's choice of captain?

At subsequent news conferences, England players backed Terry just as they would have supported Ferdinand or whoever was captain. While well meaning, such sentiments are empty.

Terrygate has added an extra edge to what promises to be a difficult game for England. Wales may have lost its opening three Euro 2012 qualifiers, but with its strongest XI, which new manager Gary Speed almost has at his disposal, plus the backing of a fervent crowd in Cardiff, who would love an English scalp, this could be a testing 90 minutes for Capello, Terry and company.

The good news for England is that Spurs midfielder Gareth Bale, described as the best left-sided player in the world by Capello, will miss the game be cause of a hamstring strain.

Capello is set to pair Wayne Rooney and Andy Carroll in attack. Aaron Lennon and James Milner will be the wide players in midfield with Arsenal's Jack Wilshere likely to be handed one of the central roles.

There is a lack of goals in that trio, so Capello should give the nod to Frank Lampard above Scott Parker for the fourth midfield spot.

Even without Bale, Wales remains confident of an upset.

Striker Craig Bellamy said: "We've spotted weaknesses and we aim to exploit them. England have clear strengths but there are also a lot of weaknesses in how they play and approach games too. We've been working on that in training this week to try to exploit it.

"Individually, we each know the England players are exceptional. But we also believe it's possible to target one or two things and hopefully we can do that. We need to start stamping our authority on Welsh football for the coming years and show this weekend how we are going to go about doing that."

Bellamy did not divulge details of Wales' master plan, but he was probably referring to England's right flank of Lennon and Glen Johnson. After the 0-0 draw against Montenegro last October, England can afford no more slipups.

Anything but victory will see the media stilettos being sharpened. Some England supporters even want Wales to win because they believe it will hasten the departure of Capello, but whatever the result the Italian will remain until Euro 2012 qualification is decided.

* * * * *

GIVE THE PEOPLE what they want to hear. Last Tuesday, former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was in London for a charity dinner.

"I miss England," he said. "And I think England wants me back, no? My next job will be in England. There is unfinished business."

The following day Mourinho was back in Madrid and told the Spanish media: "My feeling is they [Real Madrid] are happy with my work. And if, after the three years I have left on my contract I would not mind making a new contract. I feel love from the players and fans here."

Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for theLondon Daily Telegraph.


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