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In off the post: Terry's disrespect for England captaincy means he is not worthy

Like many people I was shocked but not a little relieved at the news that Mr Capello had walked, apparently on a matter of principle. 

Inevitably, the whirlwind that followed covered every kind of speculation ranging from who will take over to suggestions that this was simply the excuse that Capello had been waiting for to jump ship. There was even talk that he’d been pushed.

Whatever the truth, what is an inescapable fact is that this whole sorry saga was totally avoidable. If the FA had been stronger from the outset, if John Terry had done the honourable thing and stood aside until his case had been resolved, etc, etc, etc.

Sadly, none of those things happened and yet again we head for a major tournament in turmoil. As the shameful press coverage of Stuart Pearce and an 18 year old allegation of racism showed, it’s fairly certain that turmoil is set to continue if not worsen in the following months.

However, with the issue of the England captain seemingly central to Capello’s departure, one question which received a regular airing in the days following his exit involved the question of the England captaincy. More specifically, do we actually need one at all? 

It says much for the damage the John Terry debacle has wrought that this question has even been asked let alone considered but lest anyone begins to take this seriously, everyone who follows the national side should remember one simple truth.

Removing the armband

The FA did not remove the captain’s armband from John Terry as a result of the allegations of racism and the question of his innocence or guilt. Indeed, the baying and all too often aggressive cries of innocent until proven guilty were and remain totally pointless because as well all know, that question will now be settled in a court of law.

No, the armband was removed because of the fear his position as England captain and as such, leader, would do damage to the morale in the dressing room. And it is the role of leader which is fundamental to the role of captain, one which on too many occasions has been forgotten.

The captain’s armband is not a reward to be handed around as some kind of pat on the back for being a good bloke or even a good player. It is the most important role any English player can ever fulfil because it carries with it both status and a huge array of responsibilities. Leader, ambassador, role model and upholder of those old-fashioned English ideals of sportsmanship and fair play, the very title demands massive respect. So must the person who assumes it.

That’s why we remember names such as Moore, Wright, Adams, Robson, Pearce, Beckham, etc. Yes, some of them had their flaws and certainly in Tony Adams case, a prison record. But they all had one thing in common, they were great leaders. Not just on the pitch, but off it.

More importantly, they led by example. Who will ever forget Beckham against Greece, Pearce against Argentina or any one of a hundred other examples where the England captain led from the front and dragged not just the team but the fans with them?

Club captain

John Terry might be a great player and by all accounts is certainly a good club captain but even after 30 games as the figurehead of England can anyone really say that he is genuinely fit to walk in the shadows of his predecessors?

The fact that he placed himself above the unity of the dressing room indicates not. By sitting back whilst years of commitment to the anti-racism cause were put at risk by his very presence merely confirms it. Because make no mistake, that is exactly what he has done.

Since the dark days of the 80s, no footballing nation has been more vocal in its condemnation of racism within the game than England. By our actions we have earned the right to stand firm and just on the moral high-ground and that has given us the power to speak out against racism in nations across the world. Not in one single case have they been able to throw anything back at us.

The focal point for that stance is and always will be the captain of England yet by not standing aside until the allegations of using racist abuse have been dealt with and instead, actually having the gall to lead the national side against Sweden, John Terry has placed at risk our right to preach to anybody about this issue ever again. And without us on that moral high-ground, it’s a bleak and above all else, empty place.

The FA finally realised that which is why, like the RBS chairman Fred Goodwin, he was quite rightly stripped of the honour that had been bestowed upon him. Because innocent or guilty, by his own actions he showed that he doesn’t respect the position and he certainly doesn’t deserve it.

Maybe that’s the principle Mr Capello should have been thinking about when he walked into FA headquarters on that fateful day. Because football might well be a matter of life and death, but it is also a matter of right and wrong.

That’s why we need an England captain. If only to remind us which is which once in a while.

By Dougie Brimson

Dougie Brimson is a best-selling author, screenwriter and Watford fan. His latest projects include a new comedy ebook 'The Art of Fart'.

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