Terry saga gives Capello captain dilemma
The end of John Terry's first tenure as England captain came at the conclusion of a brutally brief 12-minute meeting with coach Fabio Capello at Wembley.
When Capello stripped Terry of the captaincy in February 2010 after claims of an alleged relationship with the ex-girlfriend of England colleague Wayne Bridge, it was accepted the Italian was making a footballing judgement as opposed to a moral one.
Capello clearly felt Terry's credibility as captain had been damaged and his ability to lead - and perhaps more importantly unify - England's squad was beyond him.
As the Football Association removes the captain's armband for a second time with Terry scheduled to stand trial in July for alleged racist abuse directed at QPR's Anton Ferdinand - and for which he has entered a not guilty plea - the discussions and conclusions will have been much more complex.
When FA chairman David Bernstein canvassed opinion from his other board members, the legal and footballing implications of such a move will have weighed heavily on their minds, as well as the reaction of their coach.
Terry was stripped of the England captaincy in February 2010. Photo - Getty
From the moment Terry became the subject of a Metropolitan Police and FA investigation after the incident in the west London derby at Loftus Road in October, the Italian has been typically unmoved with his own verdict.
Questioned repeatedly on the matter, his stock response delivered in a style which brooked no further argument has been: "Innocent until proven guilty."
It was also the response of a man who had demonstrated his own personal and professional faith in Terry when he reappointed him as captain, to the surprise of many, in March 2011. And only two months ago he was publicly insisting it was a decision that had given him no cause for regret.
So as the FA takes this decision out of Capello's hands, then the fall-out may well stretch all the way to Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine. It is also a move that will go against their coach's very public view on the matter.
The FA will have been hoping the course of law would have moved at a speed that effectively took a decision for it, but once the date for the case was set for July it has been forced to act - hence Bernstein's discussions with his colleagues.
With Terry stripped of the captaincy for a second time, the prospect of him ever regaining it will surely be gone forever irrespective of his uncertain form and fitness and the obvious drawbacks of a defender with a long career moving into his thirties.
Capello is now handed the dilemma of whether he should even take Terry to Euro 2012 - as well as the possibility that his former captain may not wish to go.
The player's best days are clearly behind him, although he remains formidable, but few other defenders are making compelling cases to replace him at the heart of England's defence.
He must weigh up whether Terry's presence in the squad, with the FA effectively having sacked his captain, could be a catalyst for further disunity.
Terry may feel he has been the victim of injustice after losing the job on the basis of claims before the court case, while Capello must ensure in his own mind that he is confident Terry will not be a maligned presence around the squad if he does go to Poland and Ukraine.
Capello, despite some unfounded suspicions, still cares deeply about leaving a final mark and a legacy of substance on England as he moves towards the end of his time in charge. His potential reaction will also have been a major factor in the FA's discussions regarding Terry.
His reaction will also have been a major factor in the FA's discussions, but in the end it is clear it found the prospect of Terry continuing as captain unpalatable given the potential ramifications for squad unity and the possibility of the issue overshadowing football business.
The FA will feel it has moved to clear away a cloud that could have been the England squad's constant companion up to and including Euro 2012. Terry's presence as captain will have ensured constant questioning about the very obvious sub-plot to this tournament - but it will not go away if he is still a member of the squad.
Of a more operational concern to Capello will be who should replace Terry.
Capello can hardly turn back to Ferdinand, particularly now the Manchester United defender has ruled himself out of the running for the role.
His form and fitness has been highly suspect in recent times. There is no guarantee he will be a contender for England's squad in the summer. He also has an indirect link to Terry's court case, via his brother Anton.
The notion of Wayne Rooney as England captain has always been rather fanciful, as proved by his red card in the final qualifier against Montenegro in Podgorica. This rules him out as any role as captain at Euro 2012 would be of the non-playing variety as a result of his two-game suspension.
Capello's obvious fall-back option is Liverpool's Steven Gerrard, who captained England with distinction in the early stages of their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign when they beat Bulgaria convincingly at Wembley and won in Switzerland.
Gerrard wore scars after leading England through the debacle that was their World Cup in South Africa in 2010, but in reality he was one of the few players to emerge with credit and his captaincy was hardly the cause of that campaign's downfall.
He is, however, only in the early stages of a return after nine months of injury problems and a return to full match fitness will be his top priority. Many felt Gerrard was unlucky to lose the captaincy after his stint at the start of last season and will be regarded in plenty of quarters as Terry's obvious successor.
For a player of such dynamism, Capello had reservations about what he initially saw as his timid personality - but he appeared to clear his mind of those doubts after he took the armband again.
The FA will feel it has removed the possibility of what Reading striker Jason Roberts described as potentially a "toxic" dressing room at Euro 2012.
At the same, though, it may have passed Capello a poisoned chalice with which to toast his preparations for Euro 2012.