Amidst the predictable press stories going into lurid detail about John Terry’s alleged affair with Wayne Bridge’s fiancée, there were occasionally some articles speculating on how this will affect Terry on the pitch. The common consensus seems to be that it won’t affect him at all. I completely agree. There were also articles speculating on whether or not Terry will be stripped of the captaincy of the England national team. There were a lot of Terry apologists saying that he should be allowed to remain as captain. I totally disagree.
In England the captaincy of a sports team is much more than just a ceremonial position, as it is in some European countries, it is a position of genuine responsibility. It is more of a true leadership role than the captaincies in the NFL, NBA and NHL (where you can have more than one captain) and even more so than in MLB (where not every team has a captain).
The captain is not only supposed to be a good leader on the pitch, inspiring team-mates, relaying instructions from the bench and organising his team he has other duties too. He is officially the only player that is allowed to approach the referee during the game and is the only player that is allowed to question a referee’s decision. Off the field the captain is an integral part of instilling team spirit and helping new signings and younger players settle in to a new environment.
In this respect John Terry is an excellent captain. He leads by example; he’s often the first to put his body on the line for his team, he’s the archetypal general on the pitch and by all accounts is a superb off-field leader.
The other thing that a captain, particularly the national team captain is meant to be is an ambassador for their club/country and their sport. Whether they ask for it or not, they are role models for thousands of little kids. They have to live in the shadow of great men like Bobby Moore, Billy Wright and Bryan Robson who exemplified what people expect the England captain to behave like.
This is where Terry falls down somewhat. He did some truly stupid things when he was a young player, such as drunkenly abusing some American tourists soon after 9/11 and had his name splashed over the newspapers for a few ‘kiss and tell’ stories. These were just seen as youthful indiscretions and Terry had worked hard to not only restore his reputation, but had enhanced it to the point where he was the natural choice to take over the England captaincy after David Beckham stood down from the role.
There have still been some embarrassments even as a captain. He recently took money from an undercover reporter to show him around Chelsea’s training complex, he has since donated the money to charity and recently emails were sent out by his representatives, seemingly in a bid to fix some lucrative commercial contracts, which was seen by the public as using the captaincy to make money. The emails, circulated around the sporting world by Riviera Entertainment Limited, that declared that 'John Terry is available to create effective brand awareness and endorse products and services globally'.
It then went on to boast that 'John Terry is: British sporting hero; England's football captain; World Cup 2018 ambassador; Football icon; Dad of the year 2008; Voted as one of the World's most influencial people.' Senior figures at the FA and Stamford Bridge were apparently horrified.
Terry is certainly not the first footballer to be caught having an extra-marital affair and even more certainly will not be the last. He’s not even the first England captain to be caught playing away.
Most people say that Terry’s private life is nobody’s business but his own and normally they’d be absolutely right. They say that only his performance on the pitch matters and nothing else. Judging by his performance on Saturday that hasn’t been affected. For anybody but the captain that thinking would be correct. If the woman in question were not connected to the world of football in any way, nobody but Terry and his family would be affected. This time it’s different though.
There is a possibility that Wayne Bridge could be selected for the England squad for the World Cup. He’s been in most England squads over the last few years. He’s been in horrible form this season and is currently recovering from injury but is still probably the number 2 left back for England. All it takes is an injury to Ashley Cole and the possibility of Bridge being selected to play is high.
That means you could get the scenario where England are in a position where Terry has to motivate or even give Bridge a verbal kick up the backside. I can’t imagine that being too successful, can you? You could easily imagine Bridge telling Terry to **** off!Terry has put England in an extremely difficult position where they may have to choose between the two of them as it is unlikely they'll ever want to play together again.
The official line from the FA is that the decision will be Fabio Capello’s alone. I’m sure Capello isn’t bothered by the morality of the situation; he is from a country with Silvio Burlusconi as Prime Minister after all! What Capello has to base the decision whether or not to strip Terry of the captaincy on is if Terry still has the respect of the dressing room. One of the big positives under Capello’s reign as England manager has been that the team spirit has been excellent and Capello must be concerned that it is now under threat.
Some reports are suggesting that some senior England players are far from impressed with Terry’s behaviour and are no longer convinced that he’s the man they want to lead them in South Africa this summer. That will be the clincher in Capello’s decision. There’s no point in Terry leading if nobody’s going to follow.
That leaves the decision of which player the captain should be. Gerrard seems the obvious choice, Ferdinand was apparently Capello’s first choice when he took the England job, but his form and fitness has been patchy. Lampard is more than capable and the other candidate is Wayne Rooney but I’d leave him unburdened and just let him concentrate on playing.
There is a precedent (if a slightly tenuousfor this in English football. In the 1970’s Manchester United manager Tommy Docherty was sacked because he was caught having an affair with the wife of the club physiotherapist.
It seems to me to be a matter of when, not if Terry is stripped of the captaincy. If he doesn’t stand down himself the newspapers are just going to destroy him until either he does or Capello takes the captaincy away from him. The woman in question has hired a notorious publicist, which suggests she's planning to sell the story. That can't be good for Terry. That leaves the big question of what part, if any, Terry will have to play in South Africa.