Pressure was mounting on John Terry to resign as England captain last night after Manchester City players staged a defiant demonstration in support of theirteam-mate Wayne Bridge.
Terry's position has seemed untenable since it emerged on Friday that he had been having an affair with the former partner of his England and ex-Chelsea colleague.
And after three City players wore 'Team Bridge' T-shirts during their win over Portsmouth yesterday Terry appeared to be closer to either resigning or being forced to stand down.
Bridge missed City's Barclays Premier League encounter with Portsmouth yesterday, even though it is believed he has finally recovered from injury.
At the end of the 2-0 victory at Eastlands, Stephen Ireland was photographed with the message of solidarity across his chest.
Keen to avoid the media spotlight, Bridge did not attend the game, but Nigel de Jong and Carlos Tevez joined Ireland in wearing the T-shirts, and Tevez revealed his to the TV cameras as he left the pitch.
Bridge issued a statement over the weekend in which he said: 'I have read the press reporting in the last two days. The reports deal with matters which are of a deeply personal and private nature.
'My primary concern is the welfare of my son. Therefore, I intend to make no comment whatsoever either now or in the future about these reports and ask that my privacy is respected.'
Keeping his counsel: Wayne Bridge, who missed Manchester City's game on Sunday, stops off for petrol
While Terry showed no signs of buckling under the pressure when he scored the winning goal for Chelsea at Burnley on Saturday and no desire, according to his advisers, to stand down as England captain the storm continues to rage.
Terry's wife, Toni, is understood to have fled the marital home with their children while the couple now brace themselves for the kiss-and-tell revelations of Vanessa Perroncel the estranged partner of Bridge, and the mother of his child, who has enlisted the help of publicist Max Clifford in selling her story.
The reaction of City's players will resonate through football and add to the feeling among many of England's players that his position as captain of the national team has become untenable.
Right behind you: Ireland shows solidarity with Bridge
After the game City manager Roberto Mancini said of Bridge: 'He is a fantastic player, a very good player and the players are very close to him.'
Bridge is still unsure as to whether he can remain an international footballer while Terry is captain.
Last night Fabio Capello's position remained unchanged. The England manager returns from his home in Lugano, where he has been recovering from a knee operation, on Thursday and he will hold a number of meetings on Friday. These meetings could yet involve both Terry and Bridge.
Not until Capello and his Italian colleagues at the FA have heard all the evidence will they make a decision on Terry's future but he is beginningto understand what a serious business this is.
He will not want to lose Terry as a player but he will not want to lose Bridge either. Especially when Ashley Cole has a history of injury problems.
Last night, the sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe entered the fray. 'On the field John Terry is a fantastic player and a good England captain, but to be the captain of England you have got to have wider responsibilities for the country and clearly if these allegations are proven and at the moment they are only allegations then it does call into question his role as England captain,' he said. 'I speak to the FA on a regular basis so I will be asking what their viewpoint is and we will see what comes of it in the future.'
Show of support: Carlos Tevez reveals his t-shirt
Only at Chelsea is Terry getting any public support. 'He's a strong man and a fantastic professional player,' said his manager, Carlo Ancelotti, after Saturday's victory at Burnley.
'Anyone can have a problem and it's important to stay focused on his job and he's done this.
'That is his private life. This is about work. We don't have to say anything because he's very professional, a fantastic captain and he did a fantastic job for us. All of us at Chelsea support him and his family.
'I don't have to manage anything. John has his private life. He has to control his private life.
All friends: John Terry (left) sits with Vanessa Perroncel, Wayne Bridge and Ashley Cole in 2007
'I have to control my team, He is a player in my team. He is the captain of this team and I am honoured and very proud to manage John Terry.
'Every game he plays, he plays very well and also tonight. He did the important part for us.'John Terry is special. This was a difficult game and he scored a fantastic goal, which maybe could be the most important goal of the season.
'Maybe this is a sign of the destiny of the Premier League title.'
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