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Capello springs surprise with Terry choice

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Phil McNulty | 14:07 GMT, Tuesday, 19 August 2008

England coach Fabio Capello may cut a figure of stone-faced Italian solidity - but is showing a knack for springing surprises and his choice of John Terry as captain is another.

Gone are the days when teams and captains could be predicted with confidence, and as all the signs appeared to point to Rio Ferdinand gaining the armband on a permanent basis, Terry arrived stage left to keep his job.

I might as well say it for one last time before putting my soap box away. My choice would have been Liverpool's Steven Gerrard.

It would have been fascinating to see how this supreme footballer and heartbeat of Liverpool would have reacted to the responsibility, but Terry is Capello's pick after a series of public auditions.

I was among those who felt that Ferdinand would be the man to lead England into their 2010 World Cup campaign, despite a strong personal preference for Gerrard.

I watched Ferdinand when he was preparing for England's friendly in France in March, and he did a passable impersonation of the captain-in-waiting with an almost statesman-like pre-match media briefing.

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He has matured as a player and person, and his role in Manchester United winning the Premier League and the Champions League only added lustre to his reputation.

Terry on the other hand, had suffered from injuries at crucial times and was very much seen as Steve McClaren's man, an impression not helped by those awful sycophantic and awe-struck references to "JT" from the coach.

He was seen to be fighting a real battle to re-establish himself as captain, especially after being hit with heavy personal criticism for Chelsea's hounding of referee Mike Riley in the 4-4 draw at Spurs in March.

Since then he has suffered the biggest disappointment of his career, slipping and missing a penalty that would have given Chelsea the Champions League in Moscow in May.

Capello, intriguingly, was quick to publicly support Terry's leadership credentials after that miss - and they have not proved mere words of comfort, he has followed them with actions.

Terry has since demonstrated his determination to overcome that trauma and his iconic status at Chelsea is unharmed. He has learned from those dark moments in places such as White Hart Lane and Moscow and is now ready for a new beginning.

He is as close as it gets to an automatic choice, enjoys a good relationship with the man who will now be his vice-captain so there will be no friction, and goes into the new season with hopes that his injury problems are behind him.

The next step on that road to rehabilitation will come with his re-appointment as England captain, a decision which will undoubtedly be questioned by Ferdinand's many admirers.

But Terry has told us on many occasions since Moscow that he is "a big man" and now he gets another chance to prove this on the World Cup qualifying stage.

Capello has seemed mystified by the importance placed on the captaincy of the national team in England.

It is understandable given that not much would have been gained or lost by the appointment of Terry, Ferdinand or Gerrard. Any of those three would have been perfectly acceptable as captain.

England captains past and present have different views on the matter. I spoke to Terry Butcher and he was an advocate of Ferdinand, despite seeing so much of his own Lionheart approach in Terry.

Peter Shilton was in the Terry camp, as was Tony Adams, a defender who will not be offended by the assertion that he was more Terry than Ferdinand.

For my part, Terry is a sound choice and will provide a contrasting type of captaincy to that Ferdinand would have offered. Ferdinand would also have been a good choice - and I will not mention Gerrard again.

Terry is very much a leader from the front, whereas Ferdinand would have been more of a captain by example, although this should not detract from the Chelsea man's status as an outstanding defender.

He will also be driven by his recent disappointments, not just Chelsea's defeat on penalties in Russia but also as the captain (albeit an injured one for vital games) who was one of those unable to see England safely through the qualifying campaign to Euro 2008.

England have a huge opportunity to ensure they do not repeat the mistakes of the McClaren era and reach South Africa in two years.

Terry will not want another scar on his CV - and it may have been factors like this that steered Capello away from Ferdinand and towards his defensive partner.

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