The Next England Captain?

With pressure building by the hour, the inevitable happened. With John Terry’s trial for racial abuse delayed until after the European Finals, the decision to strip Terry of his captaincy of the national side (again) was taken by the FA this morning. They had little choice really. It was not an accusation of guilt towards Terry, but an acceptance that the surrounding circus that would continue throughout the summer had made his position untenable. Despite his vehement claims of innocence, perhaps Terry should have realised this and taken the bullet himself. It would have been a far, far better thing that he could have done. But that’s an argument without an end – the deed is done, whatever we may think of it.

So who takes over the cursed armband?

The fact is, this will be a short blog. There really aren’t that many candidates. Maybe we should do what they do in Italy, and just choose the player with the most caps – after all, I really don’t see what difference it makes. Whoever is captain, the vocal players will continue to be vocal, the players will continue to talk, and organise, and debate on the pitch. The role has more influence off the pitch, due to media and sponsor duties. Here are the contenders:

Joe Hart. On the plus side, barring a collapse of form rarely seen outside the England cricket team in the sub-continent, he is guaranteed selection. He is level-headed, articulate, talks to the defence, and calm under pressure. For those reasons, he is the choice of the Telegraph’s Mark Ogden (who added, fingers crossed, that’s he’s rarely injured). He is however very young for such a role, and what’s more, I don’t like the idea of the captain being a goal keeper, as he will struggle to communicate to more offensive players at times. Peter Shilton might disagree, but it’s my personal preference to lean towards an outfield player. What’s more, having such a young goalkeeper in this key position means it’s probably best he is allowed to get on with the job at hand, without extra distractions. I don’t think he’s quite ready for this just yet.

Rio Ferdinand – highly unlikely, as there must be question marks over his selection, due to a drop in form, and even bigger question marks regarding his persistent fitness problems. Anyway, he has tweeted that he doesn’t want to be captain, so everyone’s happy.

Steven Gerrard – the obvious choice – been there, done it, got the T-shirt, the cap, and the armband. Experienced choice, who could slot into the role easily, with no qualms. But. Is he an England regular any more? Only time will tell, as he returns from injury in the second half of the season. He is the go-to choice only if he stays fit, is in form, and is expected to be picked in Polkraine by Capello.

Scott Parker. Again, is he an England regular now? Proposing that a 30+ year-old with 10 caps take over the captaincy is an idea fraught with difficulties. After all, the manager needs to pick someone who he is confident will be an England regular, to avoid the past situations whereby the armband was moved around like a present in a pass-the parcel game. Otherwise, we may as well let every player have 8 minutes as captain. But that aside, he fits the bill fairly well. Plays in the middle of the park (handy for a captain), is articulate, sensible, level-headed, and unlikely to be photographed with a dolly bird on each arm in a Polish nightclub at 5am.

Gareth Barry. Stop laughing at the back. Has the same qualities as Scott Parker, and has been captain before. The question mark will remain over whether he will actually play, but then he is a far, far better player than people give him credit for.  But again, would he be picked, or is Scott Parker now the preferred choice of Capello? Either way, his injury record is good, he would be proud to take on the armband, and is a player who never hides.

Frank Lampard. Sorry to repeat myself but will he be in the team in Poland and Ukraine? There seems little merit in choosing a player moving into the twilight of his career – best surely for Capello to plan ahead and choose someone who has a good chance of remaining captain for at least a few years, so that the world does not have to be bored into submission again with this argument for a many a blue moon.

Wayne Rooney – yeah, right. A ridiculous option, yet this hasn’t stopped The Mirror’s David Anderson proposing him as the next captain, his reason being he is England’s key player.
“It’s not a case of it, but when he leads his country and Sir Alex Ferguson sees him as a future Manchester United skipper. His critics will point to his red card against Montenegro and subsequent ban as proof that he’s not ready, but his moments of red mist are increasingly infrequent.”
Apart from the fact his moments of red mist are as regular as ever, he is clearly not captain material, but just as importantly Capello will make this decision not only with the long-term in mind but also with the Euro Finals swaying his decision, and he is hardly going to pick a captain who can’t play for the first two games (and thus may well play very little part in the tournament as a whole).

So in conclusion, the FA are probably looking for the following: a first team regular, who is sensible, eloquent, stays off the front pages of newspapers, and is willing to take the extra weight on his shoulders. With that in mind, there can be little doubt that the next captain will be Steven Gerrard, should he remain fit and recapture his form. If not, I’d have whichever player out of Gareth Barry or Scott Parker that Capello decides to favour in the summer. I think midfielders are ideally placed (on the pitch) to captain, and it is there that we find the most-level headed first team players, on the whole. The ability of England players to hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons means this is not a decision for Capello where he will be spoilt for choice. Let’s hope he decides quickly, then we can get back to the football.

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