Why Rio should be angry over England captaincy farce

A needless distraction, a pragmatic, cold-headed decision - or just a blatant U-turn?

Whatever the reasoning behind Fabio Capello's reversal on the England captaincy issue , what matters is that the choice appears to have been made. And now it is up to the manager and players to get on with it.

Capello's treatment of Rio Ferdinand appears, at best, cack-handed. Ferdinand is no idiot, realistic enough to accept that his injury record alone is probably sufficient reason for Capello to take the armband back off him.

With Steven Gerrard also missing for next week's crunch date with Wales in Cardiff, Frank Lampard perhaps not a natural leader and Wayne Rooney rightly needing to concentrate on finding his form, the only other certain starter who could have been considered as skipper was Ashley Cole - and you don't need me to tell you the storm that would have set off.

Capello has watched John Terry for the 13 months since he stripped him of the captaincy, and realised the Chelsea skipper remains the best leader in his squad.

In an ideal world, it is fair to say, Capello would have wanted to wean his players off their need for an old-fashioned screamer and shouter at the head of the team, just as he successfully weaned them off their dependency on Michael Owen at the start of his reign.

But Capello does not need telling the year or so since dumping Terry over an issue which still seems far more about morality - a dubious concept in an amoral sporting world - and less about football has been somewhat counter-productive.

At the point the Terry furore blew up, Capello was a national hero.

He had guided England through a record-breaking World Cup qualification campaign, had been handed a soft group-phase draw for the Finals, had imposed himself as a strong leader, with an established chain of command and had a squad which knew its place.

Fast forward to now and the trail of errors stretches into the distance - The Capello Index, the World Cup debacle, Rob Green and David James, leaving out Theo Walcott, the dreadful displays against Montenegro and France.

According to Capello, the evidence he needed to contemplate a change at the top came in the last few minutes of the win over Denmark last month, when Cole came off with nine minutes to go and nobody knew who should get the armband - only that Terry must not under all circumstances.

Pressed on that incident in the aftermath, Capello shuffled nervously before exiting stage left, with a hurried: "Give me time to decide everything. Bye."

Five weeks later, that decision has been taken, with Capello conceding: "I was really upset about what happened in Denmark, when I saw the players saying 'Who is the captain?'

"After one year of punishment, it was not the best moment for John Terry to see this. For that reason I need to make a decision - and it will be a permanent decision, not just one game."

The impact on Ferdinand will not be as grave as has been suggested by some, and the idea that the Manchester United man will quit international football in disgust is laughable.

But Ferdinand is right to be angry, not at the decision but at the way it has been carried out - especially when he received reassurances direct from Capello's lieutenant Franco Baldini that Terry was only being considered as a temporary solution.

That, clearly, is not the case and you wonder why there was any need for subterfuge, when honesty would have been, by some distance, the best policy.

It ensures an icy atmosphere when Capello and Ferdinand meet this evening at an Old Trafford which will have to banish the ghosts of Champions League failures past swirling around.

Sir Alex Ferguson has never forgotten what happened against Monaco in 1998, when a goalless away draw meant nothing after David Trezeguet's early opener gave United too big a mountain to climb.

Likewise, two years later, when their reign as holders was ended after a goalless draw in the Bernabeu was followed by a Fernando Redondo-inspired 3-2 defeat on home soil against Real Madrid.

Of course, United did convert a goalless draw in Barcelona in the 2008 semi-final, en route to their Moscow glory, and overhauled a 2-1 deficit at the hands of Roma the previous season.

Marseille, with an intelligent manager in Didier Deschamps, will not roll over and die and even a one-goal United lead will make for a nervy evening, with the knowledge that a single slip late-on could prove fatal.

Ferdinand's prime interest will be witnessing his side go through, in the hope that he will be fit for the real stuff when the last eight stage begins.

But before that, Capello has a job to do.

A little understanding, if not humility, might not be a bad thing. Even, perhaps, an admission that the Italian has not covered himself in glory.

Don't bet on it, though.

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williamhill.com

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