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Martin Samuel: Deafening silence ends the John Terry affair

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23 Mar 2011 13:24:24

Martin Samuel: Deafening silence ends the John Terry affair

When the moment finally came it was even briefer than the last time Fabio Capello had discussed the England captaincy with John Terry. If the meeting at Wembley to strip him of the armband was measured in minutes, what took place on the training ground at London Colney went by in little more than seconds. Capello called the group together, announced that Terry was to be England captain, said this was permanent and asked if there were any questions or matters arising. Met by silence, Capello moved swiftly on to his plans for the morning session. And that was it. There was no inquest, no objection, the much-vaunted player revolt did not materialise. It was never going to. Moments like that are precisely why Terry is back captaining his country. Capello has long identified him as the most vocal member of the group. Even during the World Cup, however misguided Terry's modus operandi, Capello could not help but notice he was often alone in speaking out as the campaign misfired. No complaints? Fabio Capello asks if anyone has a problem with John Terry as skipper As for the players, Tuesday's meeting must be the end of the discussion. It would be disingenuous indeed to say nothing when challenged but then use the events of the past weeks as an excuse for a poor performance against Wales. The Latin maxim, quoted in Robert Bolt's play, A Man For All Seasons, is qui tacet consentire: silence gives consent. If the squad truly is angry and upset, the time to voice that dissatisfaction was at the first opportunity. There are more important issues to attend to now, such as stopping Gareth Bale, and anything said after the game, particularly if it does not go entirely according to plan, would be self-serving. The match with Wales in Cardiff is a European Championship qualifier, not a referendum on the captaincy of Terry. If Bale skips down that left flank, around England right back Glen Johnson before plonking his shot past Joe Hart for the winner, it will not be because Capello failed to meet Rio Ferdinand at Old Trafford on March 15.   More from Martin Samuel... Martin Samuel: England's giant Johnson never believes in fairytales 20/03/11 Martin Samuel: Dark days when the Premier League stars fail to shine20/03/11 Martin Samuel: The day Johnno pulled the rug from under the Irish18/03/11 MARTIN SAMUEL: Music's the real casualty of the karaoke nurses18/03/11 Martin Samuel: Now Capello can feed off a slice of the old Rooney16/03/11 Martin Samuel: Ferdinand will know the best man always wins15/03/11 Martin Samuel: Southern giants would have England for breakfast13/03/11 Martin Samuel: Terry has proved he is England's natural leader13/03/11 VIEW FULL ARCHIVE Ferdinand's camp has been working overtime in the last 10 days, establishing a solid rumour mill of righteous anger, player unrest and supportive text messages, and these have kept the pot boiling nicely. This culminated in Tuesday's leak - coincidentally to the journalist who ghosted Ferdinand's autobiography -that the player had demonstrated great class by contacting Terry to wish him good luck (even though he was only reciprocating a gesture madeby Terry on losing the captaincy to Ferdinand a year ago). Variously over the past days we have heard that England's players think Capello has lost the plot, that Ferdinand has been deluged with messages of support from team-mates who believe he has been treated shabbily, that the entire process was a plotby the London-based media - an idea so far-fetched it is laughable - and that Terry's appointment has split the camp. At the weekend, Capello was told by one of Ferdinand's representatives that a significant player in the England squad - he named the name, and it was a big one - was very unhappy at Terry's appointment. Strangely this individual was also among a number of England players who had contacted Terry, welcoming his reappointment. The reality is some of the biggest contributors to the stories of a camp divided have been agents, eager to stir trouble out of which their clients may benefit. Either that, or members of the England team are playing both ends against the middle, which is also likely. In any office, at any moment, there will be an employee moaning about his or her treatment, and another sympathising. We've all done it. We've all been the person who agrees that a colleague is undervalued or getting a raw deal from the boss. What we do not do, however, is then march in and resign in protest. Most of the time, we don't even mention it beyond the confines of our intimate circle. We know the boundaries. Snub: Rio Ferdinand ignores Capello (left, with back to camera) at Old Trafford last weekend Now imagine the levels of insincerity at a football club, when each week a list of 11 chosen ones goes up on the notice board? Footballers will be well versed in the hypocrisy of commiserating staunchly with an overlooked colleague and then ignoring such distractions to play the match. It is quite possible that some of the players who have contacted Ferdinand voicing their disapproval of Capello's actions have also been in touch with Terry, celebrating his good fortune. When Ferdinand was dropped from the England team after failing to take a drugs test, there were genuine fears that the players would go on strike; this, by contrast, was no mutiny, more a few guys offering a shoulder on which to cry. There was no uprising, nor was there going to be. Players deal with the harsh realities of selection every week. Even those close to Ferdinand say he will not reject international football over this demotion. It was already in Capello's mind to restore Terry prior to the Denmark game. That week, before the match, the manager took the unusual step of informing Terry he would be playing. He thanked him for the way he had continued to commit to England since losing the captaincy, said he had served his punishment and left, leaving the player to ponder the consequences of that last statement. Terry was convinced that construing it as a hint that he would return as captain could only lead to disappointment, so banished the idea from his mind. He has been as surprised as anyone by the recent chain of events. As for Ferdinand, having failed to meet Capello before Manchester United's match with Marseille last week, he may have to wait a long time for an official explanation. Capello's management style has been criticised over this, and some mistakes have been made, but having relayed the message that he would see Ferdinand atthe game, when the player was not in his usual place, what was he supposed to do? This is the England manager, remember, a famous face who cannot walk more than 10 paces through a crowd without being asked for an autograph or picture. Is he meant to dash around a 76,000-capacity stadium trying to find his captain? Ferdinand may have felt aggrieved and disrespected, but equally it is not Capello's job to go hunting for him with a butterfly net. The statement that he would see Ferdinand at Old Trafford had a clear implication. For example, say you lend ?50 to a friend you see in the pub every Friday night. He says he'll pay you back when he sees you next week. The inference is that youwill meet in the usual place. If he chooses to go to a different pub, amile down the road, the onus is not on you to find him. Ferdinand may have thought he was makingan arch point by not taking his seat in the directors' box that night, but his protest was ultimately self-defeating. Capello still made Terry captain, as he had always intended, and Ferdinand was denied the opportunity to say his piece. He now fumes impotently, and from a distance. What happens next depends on the result. Lose in Cardiff and, as Terry conceded yesterday, everything will be placed at his door, and that of Capello. It will all come down to the fateful snub to Ferdinand, and the decision that divided the dressing room, even if the only first-team regular we have heard from directly is Johnson and he said the players didn't much care. This is familiar territory before an England match, the inverted pyramid of piffle in which what matters - stopping Bale, Wales's most dangerous player, supplying Craig Bellamy - is relegated to the margins and the preamble is spent sifting through a litany of distractions. Facing the music: Terry speaks to the media after being reinstated as captain We seem to want it all ways. First, arguing that Capello is a fool for meddling with an inconsequential order of succession, then claiming that such a trivial affair could impact on morale in a way that turns a match. In essence, all Capello is looking for is an extra 10 per cent. These are the margins that separate victory and defeat. If a manager can improve the performance of the players by even a small amount, that is often enough to tip the balance. An added 10 per cent possession against Montenegro would have given England more than 70 per cent of the play; would that have been enough to win the game? Capello does not make Terry captain against Wales to guarantee victory, but to increase that likelihood by degrees because he sees him as the natural leader, and hopes to trigger a response. These are unquantifiable calculations, guesses at most, but every manager is forced to make them, certainly one fighting for his life, like Capello. And never forget that when he asked the group if they had any better ideas, all that could be heard was the wind in the trees and the tweeting of birds. So Terry is captain. Again.  Will lucky scarf get it in the neck? If the scarf fits: Gerard Houllier If Gerard Houllier achieves anything at Aston Villa this season, it will surely be to assist in the death of a very modern affectation, the manager's lucky scarf. Roberto Mancini started it, at Manchester City. Then Avram Grant adopted it at West Ham United, although he does not quite seem to have grasped the concept, considering that he changes the scarf for every game (memo to Avram: a lucky scarf is an individual item of clothing, it therefore follows that if every scarf you put on is lucky, it is you that is the magic charm, not the scarf and, let's face it, mate, you're not). Yet, while neither manager can claim to be exactly blessed with fortune, neither has yet done badly enough to ruin the conceit beyond repair. Houllier, however, could be the man. There he was, a goal down at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday, the crowd in mutinous mood, his team slipping through the league, still proudly sporting his lucky Villa scarf. Houllier looks to genuinely feel the cold since his heart operation but, even so, the thought that without this piece of attire Villa could be doing even worse under him this season is hardly a recommendation. About as lucky as the rabbit's foot was for the rabbit, in fact.  What made the red card shown to Jonny Evans, the Manchester United defender, for a brutal foul on Stuart Holden of Bolton Wanderers exceptional was that the seriousness of the offence was spotted instantly by referee Andre Marriner. We hear a lot about potentially leg-breaking tackles, but referees are likely to miss them these days. Marriner did not and, with Holden now ruled out for the season, ensured justice was done, as much as it can ever be.  Great Britain's beach volleyball team is the latest to jump aboard the no-hopers bandwagon for London 2012. In the most recent world rankings, the leading British men's pair, Gregg Weaver and Robin Miedzybrodzki, were tied in 90th position, while the leading women, Denise Johns and Lucy Boulton were a more respectable 36th. Even so, as only 16 pairs get to compete, it will still be tough to make any impression. Still, as the beach in question is on Horse Guards Parade about 25 miles from the sea, if we are looking for a kernel of reality here, forget it.  Only a candidate from an emirate, where the thoughts of the ruling class are reported dutifully without question, could presume that the global public wish for a televised debate on the FIFA presidency. The gauntlet thrown by Mohamed bin Hammam to Sepp Blatter smacks of a man with little self-awareness, who genuinely believes his office requires the same reverence afforded to prime ministers or potential leaders of the free world. There is, of course, another way. WC Fields said that in the event of war, heads of state should be made to fight it out in a ring with socks of manure. Now that we'd pay to see.  Careful Andrew, there are skeletons in Ireland's closet , tooAfter a week of Irish glory and glorification at Cheltenham and two very jolly days in Dublin to follow, many Englishmen would have felt the bond between our countries had become rather civilised these days. So it came as something of a surprise to pick up the newspapers on Monday and discover what really inspired Ireland's Six Nations victory over England at the Aviva Stadium: hatred. Andrew Trimble, the Ireland wing, let this slip, describing a rallying call from lock and most recent Lions captain Paul O'Connell prior to the game. 'I always love listening to him during England week,' Trimble said. Irish eyes are smiling: Andrew Trimble (right) celebrates with Ronan O'Gara after beating England 'We wanted to get everything right technically, but we also wanted to use our physicality, our intensity, just a real hatred. We never get sick of beating England; that is why we enjoyed the win so much. There's a lot of history there.' Indeed there is. Like the European Union's ?73.7billion bailout for the failing Irish economy last November, that could end up costing British taxpayers in the region of ?6.07bn. Not many songs about that on Saturday, though, just the usual one about prison ships, prison walls and a terrible famine that took place 160 years ago yet is still thrown in the face of every visitor in an England shirt, as if it was cooked up in the Harlequins dressing room last Tuesday. Maybe next time Martin Johnson visits he could give a rousing and equally relevant speech before the game based on vengeance for all the little kiddies abused by Ireland's paedophile priests. Or is it only the English who have entries in the history books of which their modern descendants might be ashamed?  Explore more:People: John Terry, Fabio Capello, Glen Johnson, Andrew Trimble, Sepp Blatter, Paul O'Connell, Martin Johnson, Gerard Houllier, Joe Hart, Rio Ferdinand, Roberto Mancini, Gareth Bale Places: London, Cardiff, Dublin, Denmark, Wales, Ireland, Montenegro, United Kingdom


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