No easy solution to the John Terry puzzle

The man who succeeds Fabio Capello as England manager has a big role to fill and a big problem to fix.

    The racism charge surrounding John Terry could make life difficult for the next England manager[GALLO/GETTY]
    The racism charge surrounding John Terry could make life difficult for the next England manager[GALLO/GETTY]

    We know for sure that England will have a new manager for June’s European Championship. What we don’t know is if he will select John Terry or opt to leave the former captain behind.
    What to do with the Chelsea veteran will be one of the first major decisions of the brave man taking over the hot seat. As proved this week, Terry is a polarising figure who played no small part in the rocky nature of Fabio Capello’s four years in charge.
    The new coach will know that taking Terry to Poland and Ukraine is almost certain to destabilise the English camp. But leaving him behind will lessen their defensive options whilst robbing the squad of one of its most experienced players.

    Stripping the Chelsea defender of the captaincy takes away only half of the problem as he awaits a criminal trial for racism charges on July 9th. The 31-year-old is such a larger than life character that his not wearing the skipper’s armband will do little to lessen the impact of his mere presence at the tournament.
    "If Terry is there, the black players will accept it and go about their business in the most professional manner possible," said a black former England international who represented England at a World Cup in the 1990s.

    "The best central defensive partnership is still John Terry alongside Rio Ferdinand. The only problem is that Rio is Anton’s brother."

    A former England international

    "But the new manager will know that there could be whispers around the squad and that cliques forming just like they did at South Africa 2010, affecting overall morale and performance."
    With his acquittal on tax evasion charges on the same day as Capello’s resignation, Harry Redknapp is being billed as a likely and popular replacement, with the FA announcing their preference for an English or British manger.
    He would look to follow the example of another Cockney, Terry Venables, who inspired England to the semi-finals of the 1996 European Championship on home soil.
    But where does the younger Londoner fit in, with this simple, patriotic plan of whipping up a tremendous team spirit? Terry has the same potential to either unite or divide the squad, even without the captaincy.
    And as promising as they are, emerging talents like Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill may not be ready to shoulder the defensive responsibilities at international level on their own.
    "Even into his 30s and with reduced pace, a fit John Terry remains his country’s best centre back," said another former England international, an ex-midfielder.

    "The best central defensive partnership is still John Terry alongside Rio Ferdinand. The only problem is that Rio is Anton’s brother."
    Camp crisis?

    Anton Ferdinand is the Queens Park Rangers player who accused Terry of racial abuse at Loftus Road on October 23rd.
    The consensus is that England’s new manager cannot risk selecting both Rio Ferdinand and John Terry in their 23-man squad because of the potential for trouble. Only the injury withdrawal of Terry from the Chelsea v Manchester United game on February 5th avoided a handshake snub similar to the one delivered to Terry by then-Manchester City defender Wayne Bridge at the same stadium two years earlier.
    England’s pre-tournament Groundhog Day scenario saw Terry relieved of the captaincy on February 3rd, four months before Euro 2012. In 2010, he lost it on February 5th after revelations about his private life involving the former partner of his then-national teammate, Bridge.
    The only difference is that Capello was able to ride out the storm of 2010 as he removed the armband from Terry himself, instead of having the FA intervene as they did this week.

         Will Ferdinand and Terry be able to work alongside each other for England again? [GALLO/GETTY] 

    So who should now skipper England under their new boss with Ferdinand announcing that he no longer wants the job? While Tottenham workhorse Scott Parker could provide a fresh option, Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard remains hot favourite to claim the honour.
    The ex-midfielder added:  "In international football, it is often like having 11 leaders with many accomplished players on the pitch so awarding the captaincy wouldn’t be such a big deal if it wasn’t for the off-field duties."
    Even though the assumption of innocence until the July trial could earn him a place in the 23-man squad, Terry would still need to walk on eggshells in the England camp if called up.
    "Because legal proceedings are hanging over the whole affair, he has to be very careful about what he says to his teammates," the ex-England midfielder said.

    "He can’t address the racism subject in a clear-the-air kind of way, even hinting at an error of judgment because those comments could come back to haunt him in the courtroom."
    Conversely, it could be awkward for Chelsea’s black players in the England squad during the tournament.

    "The likes of Ashley Cole and Daniel Strurridge will be on edge if Terry goes to the Euro," said the black former England international.

    "They realise that whatever they do in the national set-up involving him could affect their Chelsea futures because of the power that JT holds at Stamford Bridge."
    When it comes to the behind-the-scenes dramas that always seem to unfold before England play in a FIFA competition, truth is indeed stranger than fiction.
    As for the decision to select John Terry for Euro 2012, England’s new manager could be damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.

    * Former news anchor Jason Dasey is an Asia-based Premier League broadcaster and host of the weekly Football Fever Podcast. Twitter: JasonDasey

    Al Jazeera is not responsible for the content of external websites.


    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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