Terry repays Capello faith

The Libero: Captain Terry justifies Capello decision
By Eurosport

29/03/2011 at 14:53Updated 29/03/2011 at 16:20

John Terry was back wearing the England armband at the weekend and it seemed like it had never been off his bicep.

An assured leader's performance from the Chelsea centre-back in Cardiff helped Fabio Capello's side to victory over Wales - and did much to vindicate the Italian's controversial decision to reinstate his former skipper.

A couple more outings like that and it won't be long before the furore - which raged as fiercely as an irate Craig Bellamy throughout the build-up to the game - will be well and truly forgotten.

And that's just the point. Forget about John Terry, the man. As a leader of men on the football pitch, he has no equal in the England camp at the moment.

He undoubtedly has his flaws off the pitch and, with the Wayne Bridge scandal at its peak just over a year ago, Capello had no option but to act decisively and strip him of the captaincy with his own dressing room in danger of being ripped apart.

But time is a great healer. Bridge - unfortunately, it has to be said - is no longer an 'issue' and talk of rifts in the camp are a thing of the past. The England team is ready to move on from the whole saga.

Capello's decision to return to Terry as his leader was his way of saying this. It's now water under the bridge, no pun intended.

The Italian has a duty to think about the national side's best interests and at the moment that is to have Terry as its leader.

Capello talked of Terry having served his "punishment" but his demotion was not just about being rapped on the knuckles and told to stand on the naughty step for setting a bad example: it was also about what was best for the team at the time.

Backing Terry - by doing nothing and allowing the status quo to continue - was a potentially destabilising factor in the dressing room, especially amid all that talk of a split into 'Team Bridge' and 'Team Terry'.

That does not seem to be the case anymore. Terry, outwardly at least, has the support of those players lining up alongside him. Whether that is because they are one of his mates, sympathetic of his loose morals, too scared of standing up to him or simply not bothered, it matters little.

What does matter is that Terry is wearing the armband once more and England are winning football matches with a harmonious squad. He was not the standout performer at the Millennium Stadium - that accolade went to Scott Parker - but he kept the threat of the irritable Bellamy at bay all day long and provided his side with all the direction and motivation from the back they needed.

It was a cohesive performance from the Three Lions, and not at all one that suggested a disharmonious team reeling from the fall-out of this sorry affair.

In a team of shrinking violets on the big stage, England desperately need a leader on the pitch. Love him or loathe him - and there are plenty in the latter camp - Terry is just that.

He has also rediscovered the kind of form that made him the first name on England and Chelsea's teamsheets. Let's not forget that in the immediate aftermath of the tabloid revelations, his form dipped so dramatically that his place in the side, let alone his position as captain, came under intense scrutiny.

But now it seems he's back and he's here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. That might be harsh on Rio Ferdinand - currently the only player in the squad with a major grievance, although his particular beef does not lie at Terry's door - but in football terms, Terry is without doubt the best man to lead England to Euro 2012. And why not then on to glory in Poland and Ukraine?

- - -

Wednesday morning sees the Socceroos take on Germany in a much-anticipated friendly match in Moenchengladbach.

Yeah, right. This one's going to be as friendly as a tea party hosted by Adrian Zahra with Kevin Muscat on the guest list.

There may not be anything in terms of competition points at stake, but Australia certainly have a score to settle with the Nationalmannschaft after their humiliation in Durban last summer.

That 4-0 humbling in the group stage of the World Cup was widely perceived to be the lowest point in Socceroo history, even though that Germany side was one of the best at the tournament and the most exciting to emerge for many a year - facts conveniently forgotten by those who took the easy route of laying blame directly at coach Pim Verbeek's door.

The Socceroos are undoubtedly a different, altogether more watchable, side under Holger Osieck but talk of revenge being served up to the Germans in their own back yard is, frankly, pie in the sky.

Tim Cahill is missing for the Socceroos and while Germany are without the likes of skipper Philipp Lahm and Real Madrid duo Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira, they boast the same core of the side that also downed England 4-1 and then overcame Argentina 4-0 in South Africa.

What we can bet on is a gutsy performance by Osieck's charges. They will not treat this game merely as a run-out and with youth expected to be given a chance, many of his players have a chance to stake a claim for the future.

So rather than trying to exact revenge of their German conquerors - which in all likelihood will prove a futile task - these players would be far better off busting a gut to make a point to Osieck. And that could make for interesting viewing, whatever the result.

The Libero is a new weekly football column written every Tuesday by Mike Hytner, a journalist who worked for Eurosport in Paris and London for over five years before moving to Sydney, where he is now a freelance sports writer. He specialises in European football.