Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Role Of The Captain

John Terry's dismissal as England captain has brought a lot of attention to the role of the captain at the international level.

Phil McNulty of BBC Sports writes about the English obsession with captaincy.

The fact that Capello communicated this bleak news to Terry so swiftly and ruthlessly only adds to the belief that England's World Cup campaign is safe in the hands of the former AC Milan and Real Madrid coach. As executions go, it was logical, impressive and without fuss.

The Football Association was criticised in some quarters for placing Terry's fate in the hands of Capello alone. The decisive manner in which the coach brought matters to a conclusion at Wembley on Friday afternoon vindicates that move.

Capello's vast experience made him best qualified to make the decision - and the FA knew it. Why have a dog and bark yourself?

Terry has proved an excellent captain on the pitch in England's World Cup qualifying campaign - but hardly a safe pair of hands off it. And Capello could not afford the issue of the captaincy becoming a sideshow in the countdown to South Africa.

The irony is that Capello regards the obsession with captaincy as a peculiarly English disease, a view shared by former England manager Graham Taylor. Capello regards it as an over-rated honour and expects shared responsibility in his teams. Still, he has come to realise its meaning whether he accepts it or not. Even Prime Minister Gordon Brown was pressed for his reaction to Terry's sacking.

The reality is that at the international level, with the team together so infrequently - opposed to a club team that is together 7 days a week for 10 months of the year - that the role of the captain is more of a figurehead. Walking the team out of the tunnel and participating in the coin toss tend to be the most critical roles for the man wearing the armband in an international side.

The role of the captain(s) is a greater at the collegiate level in the US game, as the players spend more time together on and off the field than at any other level - living together in dormitories as well as training, playing and travelling together. In most cases, a side might have 2-3 captains to assist in that process.

As Capello mentioned, a shared responsibility is the key to success in great teams - if you have to rely on one person on matchday, be it your manager or captain, your team will probably be in trouble, anyway.

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