John Terry: Fit to continue as England captain?

Even for those not partial to salacious gossip, the recent revelation that England and Chelsea captain John Terry allegedly slept with national teammate Wayne Bridge’s ex-girlfriend has presented an interesting conundrum: to what extent do we as fans expect (or compel) players wearing the armband to uphold a certain level of off-field conduct?

An editorial in The Mirror is unambiguous in its assessment: “It goes without saying that he is not fit to remain England’s captain.” Is it? According to the author, “[a]s England’s football captain, he is as central to public life as government ministers or captains of industry – more so, in fact, as his exploits are followed by countless children too.” David Walsh of The Times Online takes the same perspective: “What matters here is that Terry has had a relationship with the partner of a teammate — a teammate who happened to be one of his closest friends. Even in a locker room as morally ambivalent as football’s, that is considered beyond the pale.”

Canadian soccer fans, though — at least the ones I asked — don’t seem to think Terry’s indiscretions should have any bearing on his status as England captain.

I solicited feedback via twitter over the past few days, and my tweeps were pretty much unanimous in their analysis: Andrew Bucholtz says “I don’t think Terry’s affair should matter. Has nothing to do with his footballing skill or his leadership abilities.” Richard Whittall concurs: “Let the sponsors leave him, but it would make England look incredibly stupid to drop him.”

Lord Bob suggests — tongue planted firmly in cheek, I presume — that it shouldn’t matter “until he shags a teammate’s wife” and Fouge claims that, having been kicked off a team himself for “interpersonal issues”, that the whole situation is “BULL”. The catalyst for my solicitation of feedback was a tweet from John Molinaro: “So, John Terry cheated on his wife with Wayne Bridge’s ex-girlfriend. By all means, strip him of the England captaincy – NOT!”

As I said, near unanimity, but there was one dissenter who responded: JDGRPB makes the point that it’s “impossible” for respect and trust to be maintained in the locker room after an incident such as this; indeed, it appears Bridge won’t return to England unless Terry is not just stripped of the armband, but removed from the team entirely.

My sample size here is admittedly small, but I’m curious as to whether the readiness of fans over here to forgive and forget Terry’s indiscretion emanates from the sense that it’s not us that he’s betraying. If this had been Paul Stalteri, would our reactions have been different? (I assume that my colleagues’ opinions are based on practical, not moral, considerations and that they agree infidelity is a sure sign of a piece-of-shit scumbag).

For what it’s worth, Terry’s status as captain of Chelsea isn’t in any danger, says manager Carlo Ancelotti. Of course, had Terry been accused of fooling around with Frank Lampard’s wife, then things might be a bit different at Stamford Bridge.

My thoughts? The captaincy is essentially a symbolic position, meant to reward a player who the manager believes can provide inspiration and leadership to his teammates. With all of the controversy surrounding Terry as a result of this news, and the turmoil it will surely wreak in the England locker room, it’s tough to claim that he still perform that vaunted role. It’s painful to take the captaincy away from a player who’s already earned it; but if doing so is what’s necessary to help ensure his squad’s success (or, at least, minimize its chances of abject failure), then it’s a move Fabio Capello must make.

To be clear, I don’t much care about Terry’s status per se, or the performance of the English squad. I’m a Canadian fan, and that’s that. So I think about how I would feel if I were told that Canada’s captain was shown to be a dishonest douche bag… and if that happened, I don’t think I’d want him being the ostensible “leader” of the team I support. Therefore, I can only take the same approach when it concerns another player and another team.

But there’s no easy answer here. So I’m opening up the floor. What do you folks think? Should the allegations of Terry’s romantic impropriety have an impact on his status as captain of England? Leave a comment below or send us a tweet @CdnSoccerBlog.

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3 Responses to “John Terry: Fit to continue as England captain?”

  1. You also have to take into consideration that Terry has – allegedly – been involved in all sorts of indiscretions over the years: numerous infidelities (including being blown – allegedly – by a 17-year-old fan in a parking lot), selling tours of Chelsea’s training facility for personal gain, etc… Not to mention his family – Mom caught shoplifting, Dad caught on tape selling cocaine.

    It’s kind of one big unsavoury package to associate with someone who I perhaps naively believe should be a role model. That said, his on-pitch performances remain stellar. The day after all this broke he headed home a crucial late-game winner against Burnley. And the whole team came over to hug him, Lampard included.

    I’m going to assume that the moral code inside a locker room of worldclass footballers is a little more fluid than in society at large. So as long as his teammates retain enough respect for him, practically speaking he shouldn’t be turfed as England captain.

    I bet if he publicly apologized like he actually meant it that people would eventually forgive him too. But something tells me he’s far too stubborn.

  2. raoul castro Says:

    This has nothing to do with infidelity which is as common in pro sports as STD’s coincidently.
    If you bed some other chick other than the wife, that’s not a problem, heck youre a hero to most.
    You want to bed the wife of an opponent?
    Even better.

    But you dont f**k the mate of one of your teammates.
    That is the question.
    Infidelity? please dont make me laugh… that’s just a red herring to divert the question of trust and respect.

    two things you dont do in a locker room:
    You dont steal from someones bag and you dont try to bang their woman.

    Of course, having Rio as the solution is just as laughable on the surface but at least his teammates will trust he wont bang their woman or still from their bag. Dumb Rio might be a lot of things but a backstabber he isnt. (until proven otherwise)

    • Thanks for the feedback, Raoul. But perhaps you’re not on board with this post because you and I have a fundamental disagreement over this sentence: “If you bed some other chick other than the wife, that’s not a problem, heck youre a hero to most.” You may very well be right, that it is a heroic act in the eyes of most men (or at least, they grandstand about their ostensible admiration for those with the tendency to be unfaithful to their spouses). But I’m not one of the “most”. I think it’s a horribly disrespectful act that is one of the quickest ways to take someone down several pegs in my eyes.

      So while you’re right that infidelity is probably common amongst pro athletes — and the bigger issue here is that it was a teammate’s girlfriend with whom Terry allegedly committed said fidelity — in my eyes, the “fooling around on one’s wife” is enough to cast someone in a morally dubious shadow (even if, as you suggest, everyone else is probably doing it too).

      But hey, that’s me.

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