An unrepentant John Terry has urged any England team-mate unimpressed with his reappointment as captain to seek him out and discuss their differences face to face, with the centre-half unapologetic over his own part in being stripped of the job 13 months ago.
Fabio Capello summoned his 26-man squad on to the pitch at London Colney prior to training to confirm formally that Terry was his new permanent captain in place of the injured Rio Ferdinand, absent injured, and offered an opportunity for any dissenters to voice concerns. No one responded though Terry, who will begin a third spell as captain against Wales on Saturday, admitted he would field any concerns from team-mates disaffected by his reappointment.
“The manager called the group together and spoke, saying I will be permanent captain again, and that I’d done well on and off the field over the last year,” said Terry. “He asked if anyone had any questions or anything to say. No one said a word.
“I’ll respect anyone who comes to me personally and we deal with it one on one rather than me hearing things or listening to people talking in the media, claiming they know all the facts. I know I’m not going to be everybody’s cup of tea but if somebody does have a problem, I would respect him coming to me in person. Anyone who’s been around the squad for five or 10 games, I’d feel they should have the confidence to say what they feel.”
Terry, Capello’s choice as long-term captain after the auditions he introduced upon succeeding Steve McClaren three years ago, had been reduced to the ranks following a series of off-field controversies which included claims he had sought to gain financially from the role – suggestions he denies – before the World Cup finals, and allegations of an affair with Wayne Bridge’s former girlfriend, Vanessa Perroncel. That last furore proved to be the final straw and Capello confirmed Terry had been sacked in a curt meeting at Wembley in February 2010.
That dismissal deprived the Chelsea defender of the opportunity to lead his country at the tournament in South Africa last summer. While Terry conceded he “respected” the management’s decision, he continues to insist, even now, that he cannot agree with it. “I could understand it a little bit but once they, the manager and [the general manager] Franco Baldini, spoke to me – and it’s difficult for legal reasons to go into detail – I just felt I didn’t deserve to lose the armband.
“We talked through stuff – it was a 10- to 15-minute meeting – and we spoke openly and honestly. I accepted their decision. But that doesn’t mean to say I agreed with it, and I never will. That’s me being very proud and having been honest with them. I didn’t agree with them, and I told them that face to face, but I said I respected their decision and I’d continue to work hard. They’d get nothing less from me.
“I know that stigma will always be there. It might ease a bit if I lead the team out in big tournaments and we are successful, but it will still always be there.
“I know that, with the England captaincy comes a responsibility. I totally understand that. But I’d like to think I’ve personally kept my head down and done the right thing over the last four or five years, really. As you get older, you live and learn. As a man, as a player, I’ve moved on, on and off the field. I concentrate on doing the right thing: playing well for Chelsea and for my country. I’m doing the right thing.” Asked whether there had been any improvement in his relationship with Bridge, a former team-mate at Chelsea and with England, or whether he wished to say anything publicly to the full-back, Terry said: “No.”
While it took until Tuesday for Capello to confirm to his players that Ferdinand’s brief tenure as captain had officially ended, – with doubts within the national team’s hierarchy persisting over the Manchester United’s long-term fitness – Terry has already received messages of support from players within the party at his own elevation, not least from the man he replaces. Ferdinand texted on Sunday morning, ahead of Chelsea’s Premier League game against Manchester City, and the pair spoke that evening.
“That goes to show what a great man Rio actually is,” added Terry. “Naturally, we both said together that we’ve both got a lot to give in the dressing room. I wished him well, hoping he gets back fit soon, but he stressed the most important thing is England winning. That’s what we all want. This is a massive thing for me. The emotion is quite overwhelming. I had the worst night’s sleep ever last night, and was pretty nervous. It was like the first day back at school, an intimidating thing even though I’ve been in this position many times before.
“I wanted to draw a line under the issue now. I’m not daft: I know that, if we go to Wales on Saturday and win, it’ll be a great stepping-stone for us but, if we don’t get the right result, I know where the fingers will be pointing. I’m a grown man and am prepared to deal with that. But this makes me very proud again.”