After dealing with sordid love triangles, internal power struggles and tabloid sting operations, I bet poor old Fabio Capello was hoping to squeeze in some football coaching when he touched down in South Africa last week.
After all, the build up to this World Cup has been another tortuous one, with the FA and press doing their best to unsettle and disrupt the team’s preparation at every turn.
But just one training session in Capello probably wished he was back in England. Rio Ferdinand, England captain ahead of the deposed John Terry, damaged knee ligaments in a tackle with Emile Heskey (I and has been ruled out for the rest of the summer. England’s World Cup odds lengthened when the news was revealed.
Cue another reshuffle, the call up of Michael Dawson and the promotion of Steven Gerrard to captain. Gerrard is a very different skipper to Rio, or even John Terry for that matter. The Liverpool man isn’t a shouter or bawler, instead he leads by example.
This is fine when you are head and shoulders above most of your team-mates like he is at Liverpool but the all-action, rampaging, attacking midfielder we see in a red shirt disappears when he puts an England shirt on. Maybe he is like his club mate Jamie Carragher, with whom the Liver Bird carries more prestige than the Three Lions?
I suppose Capello had few options, he was vice-captain after all and Frank Lampard was the only other player left to subsequently step up to take the vice captaincy. There is Rooney of course, but I expect he has enough on his plate carrying the hopes of an entire nation on his shoulders to be worrying whether Glenn Johnson is marking the right man at set pieces.
Lampard’s appointment as vice captain also effectively means he can’t be dropped, meaning he and Gerrard have to start together in midfield.
Like the great pyramids, crop circles and the whereabouts of Lord Lucan, Lampard and Gerrard’s failure to play together in central midfield is one of the world’s greatest mysteries and I thought we had put an end to the saga by admitting it was just one of those things. Instead we look set to see them fail once more in England’s first match against the USA. The FIFA World Cup odds suggest England will win the game, but don’t expect it to be a classic.
Gareth Barry can’t return to fitness soon enough.