England face Sweden at Wembley on Tuesday as Fabio Capello looks to sign off 2011 in a flourish. On Saturday England claimed a deserved 1-0 victory against, World Champions Spain, which will be remembered as one of the highlights of a successful year for the Three Lions.
At the weekend England faced the daunting prospect of taking on Spain without a number of first teamers, but the stand-ins showed the spirit and tactical discipline that has been lacking from the previous golden generation. It is with no surprise that this professional defensive display happened without John Terry leading the line.
The Chelsea and England Captain has constructed a reputation, that he is that he is the mainstay of the England’s defence. This self confidence is based upon, unrelenting support from tabloids and Chelsea belief, that he is a leader of men and a defensive colossus. This opinion has failed to disappear despite a rapid decline in performances over the last 18 months.
When Jose Mourinho walked into Chelsea and brought unheard of glory to Stamford Bridge, at the epicenter of a highly talented and multi-national team was an English Captain. Chelsea’s success was built on the ability to keep clean sheets and strong defensive displays, yet now in the cold light of day we see that the success was down to more than just the English man. Whether his continued back problems have taken their toll, or age has caught up with him, on Saturday England proved that they can beat the best without their captain.
Before Terry was gifted the captains armband by Steve McLaren and then Fabio Capello, it was worn with pride by David Beckham. The former Manchester United player may not have brought an international trophy back to these shores, but he was an ambassador and a captain that England could be proud of. Terry however has seen his reign beset with controversy, failures and misdemeanors.
In 2010 there was the Wayne Bridge affair, with his off field actions Terry threatened undo the good work done by the national team and split the England dressing room. The Chelsea man was rightfully stripped of the captaincy, but managed to keep his squad place.
Despite the public dressing down, Terry did not shy away from the politics of football. His infamous press conference at the World Cup in South Africa, revealed a man still angry with Capello and seeking public revenge. The Three Lions needed their senior figures to galvanise the squad, not to crticise individuals and demand the inclusion of a clearly out of form Joe Cole.
After the fallout of a disappointing World Cup, the question of who would lead the Three Lions arose again. There were serious doubts over the fitness of Steven Gerard and Rio Ferdinand, and with the temperament of Wayne Rooney, still in doubt, Capello took the easy option. Rather than bestow the honour upon a younger player or one whose selection may not always be a given, the Italian chose to reinstate Terry. This decision now looks like being Capello’s biggest mistake in his four years as manager.
This reinstating, rather than inspiring Terry to change his ways, has heaped even further embarrassment and controversy on the England setup. Terry is alleged to have racial abused Anton Ferdinand, the brother of England centre back partner Rio. Whether Terry committed this offence is a mute point, the fact is as England captain and a role model for young impressionable fans, he should not have found himself in this situations. Terry now has the honour of being the captain of England and one of the most despised figure in the English game.
For the Football Association this is a bitter blow. Already reeling from failing to secure the 2018 World Cup and a high profile sponsor, this alleged act of racism may be a step too far. Whether they can persuade Capello to remove Terry again, remains to be seen, but with only 8 months left on his contract, it seems, this decision will have to be made by his successor.
England opponents on Tuesday are a side who they have failed to beat in 43 years. With Terry likely to be inserted back into the defence, the crowds’ reaction to his appearance will be a tell-tale signal as to his future. Should England fail to end this incredible run against Sweden with Terry in the side, the calls for him to stand aside will be hard for Capello to ignore.
The Swedes qualified for Euro 2012 with ease, coming in as runners up to Holland in Group E on 24 points. Thanks to this impressive tally, they were awarded automatic qualification as the best group runners up. They arrive at Wembley however, on the back of a 2-0 defeat away to Denmark, but with Captain and striker Zlatan Imbrahimovic set to lead the line, they will be difficult opponents.
Whether or not Terry leads England into Euro 2012 seems ultimately down to Hammersmith Police’s investigation in to what happened at Loftus Road. One thing remains whether he is innocent or not, England can not continue under his leadership. Saturdays performance shows, England do not need Terry.