Capello wrong to reinstate Terry
When the England captain's armband was passed speedily around Copenhagen's Parken Stadium last month without ever coming near John Terry, it was taken as final - and humiliating - confirmation that the man so ruthlessly removed from the role by Fabio Capello would never regain the honour.
As England concluded a 2-1 friendly win over the Danes, Terry waited for the call that never came as Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and finally Gareth Barry all wore the badge of office in the absence of first-choice Rio Ferdinand and deputy Steven Gerrard.
Sixth in line to the throne and maybe even lower, Terry revealed his hurt when he said: "I think they would have given it to one of the stewards ahead of me."
And yet it appears this public embarrassment for Terry melted Capello's heart sufficiently for the Italian to consider reinstating him to the job he lost last February amid allegations of a relationship with the ex-girlfriend of England team-mate Wayne Bridge.
Terry battles with Nicklas Bendtner in the game against Denmark. Photo: Getty
"Seeing that happen made me think about Terry," said Capello. "I thought it was hard for him. He was a player and a good leader, for England and Chelsea, and he is still good. So it is part of my job to make these decisions."
The decisive stand Capello took in sacking Terry in a one-sided 12-minute meeting at Wembley last February drew widespread approval. It was the act of a coach in command.
Now Capello is on the brink of reversing a decision he insisted was irreversible, hinting at weakness and loss of that sure touch, giving ammunition to those who feel he has lost the heart for the England job.
As much as he was right to sack Terry because of the firestorm raging around the Chelsea centre-back and the potential threat to dressing room morale, Capello is wrong to restore him to the captaincy after a bizarre series events that reflects badly on the Italian's current ability to handle the big issues.
With Ferdinand and Gerrard sidelined once more through injury, Terry is a logical choice as stand-in skipper for England's forthcoming Euro 2012 qualifier against Wales in Cardiff, a game the English cannot afford to lose.
The return of Terry in a permanent capacity, however, is another matter altogether.
Ferdinand is understood to be bitterly upset at how events have played out in the last few days. Speculation about Terry's return as captain was followed by personal reassurances that the Manchester United defender was still very much in the frame.
Then came Capello's U-turn.
Capello will try to soothe Ferdinand's bruised feelings in Manchester on Tuesday. But the England coach is naive to think the 32-year-old centre-half can simply brush off the manner of his removal from the captaincy.
Ferdinand's injury record may count against him but Terry has also missed key qualifiers this season and is increasingly prone to injury. That means there is the embarrassing spectre of Capello turning to Ferdinand again if the Chelsea defender is ever absent.
If Ferdinand was good enough to be named England captain by Capello after Terry's dismissal, then he is good enough to continue now.
It should also be noted that Liverpool's Gerrard was outstanding on and off the pitch when he fulfilled the captain's duties for the convincing qualifying wins against Bulgaria and away to Switzerland in September.
The notion of Terry returning as captain was not even on the radar as Capello praised Gerrard, before confirming Ferdinand would reclaim the armband against Montenegro.
Before the game against the Montenegrins, Capello said: "I spoke to Steven on Sunday evening to explain why Rio was captain. He understands everything. He knows the rules."
It may not have been a move that was unanimously well received but at least the line of succession looked clear. The rules, it would now appear, are simply there to be broken.
Ferdinand takes great pride in captaining his country. Photo: Getty
Both Ferdinand and Gerrard will have every right to question Capello's decision to restore the captaincy to a player he dispatched with the minimum of fuss. They would not be human if they did not privately wonder about the logic of Capello's change of heart.
Terry is a natural leader and still remains a serviceable, if more vulnerable, England defender, so Capello's desire to employ him in an influential role is understandable.
Some may point to Terry's supposed "coup" against Capello in Rustenburg during England's failed World Cup campaign in South Africa. However, I never bought into the idea that the Chelsea player was plotting behind the scenes.
The climate around England's camp last summer was so stifling that Terry's words were almost welcome, although he crossed the line by lobbying for Joe Cole's inclusion.
Still, Terry's days as England's full-time captain should have been done once he drove out of Wembley and away from his meeting - if such a short, sharp address from coach to the soon-to-be former captain could be called a meeting - with Capello last year.