John Terry: let the love rat keep the armband

The England captain may have been a two-timing shit to his wife, but that’s a bad reason for Fabio Capello to sack him.

Duleep Allirajah

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Should John Terry lose the England captaincy? Don’t be daft. If Fabio Capello sacks Terry I’m ripping up my England supporters’ club membership card.

Well, admittedly I’m not actually a paid-up member. In fact, I’ve never been to an England game. But you get my point. If Capello caves in to the moralisers and pontificators and sermonisers then his team won’t be worthy of the nation’s backing.

I can think of no good reason for sacking John Terry. You might hate Chelsea with a passion. You might regard the Chelsea skipper as a big cry baby. You might find Terry’s attempt to obtain a gagging order to prevent the story of his alleged affair being published to be an affront to free speech. These are all good reasons for disliking the man known as Mr Chelsea. But none of them is a valid reason for stripping him of the England captain’s armband. The moralists, of course, want him out for a whole host of other reasons. So let’s look at John Terry’s rap sheet a bit more closely:

  1. He’s a love rat. It is alleged that Terry cheated on his wife Toni Poole. But so what? ‘Footballer cheats on his missus’ is hardly an earth-shattering revelation, is it? The vilification of Terry is in stark contrast to the canonisation of Bobby Moore, England’s World Cup-winning captain. Terry’s behaviour is seen as symptomatic of the decadence and amorality of the modern-day footballer. Yet, as one PR expert has pointed out: ‘Moore was also a notorious late night boozer, a womaniser (behind his wife’s back) and he was rumoured to have been involved in some dodgy business deals’. John Terry might be an adulterer, but what he does in his private life is his own business. He’s a footballer and his place in the England team should be judged on his on-field performances alone.
  2. It’s not the behaviour one would expect of ‘Dad of the Year’. Maybe not, but at the risk of repeating myself, I couldn’t give a monkey’s. Who cares whether he’s a bad dad? Go ahead, let the Daddy’s Sauce PR people retrospectively strip him of the ‘Dad of the Year’ title. He might have blubbed when he blew the chance to win the Champions League, but I can’t see him shedding any tears over the loss of this meaningless award.
  3. Footballers are role models. Er, no they’re not. Or at least they shouldn’t be. They are paid to excel at football, not to provide moral leadership to the nation’s kids. As basketball star Charles Barkley said in that infamous Nike Air advert: ‘I am not a role model… Parents should be role models’. I’m not exactly sure how one goes about explaining to a child that bedding another footballer’s WAG is wrong but that’s a problem for us to figure out. It’s our job as parents to teach our kids what’s right and wrong. If we mess it up it’s hardly John Terry’s fault.
  4. The England captain is an ambassador. Oh please! Of course he isn’t an ambassador. All he has to do is to wear an armband, sing the national anthem, toss a coin, shake a few hands and shout a lot. And that’s pretty much the sum of it. The England captain isn’t, as far as I’m aware, entrusted with any diplomatic responsibilities. Did John Terry represent the UK at the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen or the G20 summit in Pittsburgh? No. Was he called to give evidence at the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war? Of course not. Why? Read my lips: BECAUSE HE IS NOT AN AMBASSADOR!
  5. He’s a naughty boy with ‘previous’. John Terry is certainly no angel. He’s had his fair share of bad newspaper headlines. Early in his career he was charged with assaulting a nightclub doorman, but was cleared in court. He has also been accused of urinating in a beer glass in a nightclub; drunkenly abusing American tourists after 9/11, parking his Bentley in a disabled bay, and hawking private tours of Chelsea training complex for £10k. On top of this, Terry’s mother was arrested for shoplifting and his father was filmed allegedly dealing cocaine. But all of these things are irrelevant. As I’ve said, the only thing that should matter to Fabio Capello is how he performs on the pitch. Is he a good centre half? Does he marshall the back four well? Is he a leader on the pitch? The answer to all three questions is ‘Yes’. Ergo, he is the right man for the England captain’s job.
  6. He betrayed his team-mate. The only charge that warrants serious consideration is that, by allegedly bedding the ex-girlfriend of his Chelsea and England team-mate Wayne Bridge, Terry has undermined team morale. He is guilty, as Times columnist Matthew Syed puts it, of ‘breaking the one cardinal rule of the dressing room’. That sacrosanct rule, Syed argues, ‘is that you must do nothing to compromise the success of the team or the unity of the collective’. This argument at least has the merit of being based on footballing rather than moral grounds. But is there really a strong footballing case for stripping him of the captaincy? I can’t see it myself. So what if Wayne Bridge and John Terry aren’t on speaking terms? Andy Cole and Teddy Sheringham didn’t speak to each other either. But, being good professionals, they didn’t let their animosity undermine their striking partnership for Manchester United. Wayne Bridge is a professional footballer. If he can’t keep his emotions in check when on England duty then he’s in the wrong trade.

If Fabio Capello bows to media pressure and sacks John Terry, it would be a huge mistake. Firstly, it would be a sign of weakness; a sign that the media was picking the team rather than Capello. Secondly, it would send out a signal that team morale was damaged; that the players aren’t professional or mentally resilient enough to put personal animosities aside for the greater good of the team. If Capello doesn’t back his captain he’s effectively saying to the world that the England players are a bunch of wimps.

Duleep Allirajah is spiked’s sports columnist.

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