Ferdinand lucky to regain captaincy
Rio Ferdinand's sole contribution to England's Euro 2012 qualifying campaign to date was a tweet in support of embattled Wayne Rooney after the striker scored to set the platform for victory in Switzerland.
Ferdinand will be using more conventional means of communication with his Manchester United team-mate after being restored to central defence - and the England captaincy - by Fabio Capello for the meeting with Group G dark horses Montenegro.
There was surely an element of relief for Ferdinand as he took the stage at Wembley on Monday, as both possibilities looked in jeopardy until fate took a hand.
Injuries to Phil Jagielka and John Terry cleared his path back into the starting line-up, while Capello's strict captaincy line of succession ensured he regained the armband automatically from Liverpool's Steven Gerrard.
Ferdinand's experience and quality make his recall to the team an obvious and understandable choice - but Capello's decision to instantly recall him as captain does not sit quite so comfortably.
The usual arguments about the relevance of captaincy at international level persist - and coach Capello seems unimpressed and singularly unmoved by the fuss over who wears the armband for England.
Many regard the England skipper as merely the man who leads the ceremonials and exchanges pennants - an insult to men like Bobby Moore, Bryan Robson, Terry Butcher and David Beckham, who set such store by the status.
And yet it does matter. Gerrard has shown it matters by the impressive manner in which he has helped marshall the very early stages of England's rehabilitation on and off the pitch since the South African World Cup campaign descended into chaos.
It was Gerrard who rescued England by scoring twice as they came from behind to win the friendly against Hungary at Wembley in August. Yes, it was only a friendly but a crucial one for Capello and England because defeat, with a storm of criticism still hanging over them after South Africa, was close to unthinkable for coach and team.
Gerrard has been one of England's outstanding performers in subsequent victories over Bulgaria and Switzerland, looking comfortable in a settled central midfield role and making a nonsense of fears, some of which appeared to be harboured by Capello himself, that he was too timid a personality and uncomfortable with the cares of captaincy.
He was also one of England's better performers amid the South African wreckage and was an eloquent spokesman in defence of Capello post-World Cup. He also showed an understanding of the personal problems enveloping Rooney before the win in Basle.
Gerrard also provides Capello with stability. Ferdinand, since succeeding sacked John Terry as England captain, has figured in only two out of 10 games and will be making his first competitive outing for his country since the World Cup qualifying win against Belarus a year ago.
Ferdinand is 32 next month and no less an authority than Alan Hansen pointed out that his dismal record of playing in only 44 out of Manchester United's 105 games since February 2008 would be a cause for concern for a player of 25, let alone one approaching the twilight of a glittering career.
While not subscribing to the theory that Ferdinand might be better giving up on England altogether, surely his dubious reliability in terms of fitness means he should now focus on ensuring he is a simply member of the rank and file rather than leading them?
This is nothing personal against Ferdinand, who remains a fine player when fit and was desperately unlucky to be ruled out of the World Cup with a serious knee injury sustained before the end of England's first training session in Rustenburg. He is also a highly popular and respected member of the squad.
And this is not to say he is a bad captain. Gerrard has simply demonstrated he is a superior one. Inspirational on the field and one who has grown into the role off it.
Gerrard is a better long-term bet for what is an important and prestigious post, no matter what the cynics say - and his efforts in the job since England began their Euro 2012 qualifiers made an eloquent case for the 30-year-old to keep the armband.
Capello, as ever, brooked no argument when asked about his reinstatement of Ferdinand. "I spoke to Steven Gerrard on Sunday evening to explain why Rio was captain against Montenegro," he said. "He understands everything. He knows the rules."
The Italian's law states that he who is captain stays as captain. Which means that no matter how well Gerrard has performed, not just as a player but as a spokesman for the team and unifying force for a squad under some reconstruction, Ferdinand was always going to get the job back.
As an avowed supporter of Capello, it should be stated that he has got most of his big calls right since the World Cup - but it might be worth invoking what we could call "The Sir Alex Ferguson Clause" here.
Ferguson appears yet to be convinced that he will be able to call upon Ferdinand on a regular basis. The Scot has taken the Manchester United captaincy from Ferdinand and handed the accolade to Nemanja Vidic, explaining: "We want the captain to be a player who's consistently available for us all of the time."
If it is good enough for Ferguson, then maybe this was worth consideration by Capello.
Capello has rules, and rightly so, but do they stay in place forever? Gerrard's leadership of England since the World Cup should have made Capello bend those rules.
Gerrard will return to his role as midfield inspiration with good grace - and, as Ferdinand rightly says, the more natural leaders England have at their disposal the better.
There are some leaders, though, who are more natural than others and, after observing him at close quarters throughout the World Cup and in the subsequent months as England try to rebuild a broken reputation, I believe Gerrard had done enough to leap up Capello's self-imposed and rigid pecking order to take the captaincy permanently.