Fabio Capello admits that appointing England's permanent captain will be one of the toughest decisions of his career.
Capello watched from the Wembley touchline as John Terry staked his claim to the skipper's armband with a resolute performance capped by the first goal in England's 2-0 friendly win over the United States on Wednesday. Terry was leading England for the first time since September, as Capello made the Chelsea defender his third captain in three matches after previously trying out Steven Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand in the role.
It was a cathartic moment for Terry just seven days after his penalty miss cost Chelsea the Champions League final against Manchester United. But he is not certain to retain the captaincy when England's World Cup qualifiers kicks off against Andorra next September because Capello insists he doesn't yet know the best man for the job.
" ," he said. "When I will decide we will talk with the players. Usually I announce it when we are together."
Terry is likely to be one of seven Chelsea and United players who will be allowed to miss Sunday's friendly against Trinidad and Tobago after their exertions in the Champions League final. Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Wayne Rooney, Owen Hargreaves and Wes Brown are the others set to be excused the 10-hour flight. And that could mean Gareth Barry becomes the latest player to lead the team out in Port of Spain.
The drawn-out saga of England's captaincy will quickly fade from memory when England begin the serious business of qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. Capello could take heart from his second win in three matches in charge, but the States were such lacklustre opposition that it was hard to read too much into an already low-key fixture.
After a woeful opening notable only for the numerous occasions England squandered possession, Terry broke the deadlock in the 38th minute with a bullet header from David Beckham's free-kick. Bob Bradley's visitors threatened to equaliser only once when Eddie Johnson lashed just wide soon after half-time.
A raft of substitutions followed from both managers and it was one of those replacements, Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry, who set up the second goal in the 59th minute. His astute pass sent Gerrard clear and he calmly slotted past substitute goalkeeper Brad Guzan. That was enough to send the 71,000 crowd home relatively happy.
Capello took heart from the way England dealt with the pressure of playing at Wembley, where they often looked nervous under their former manager Steve McClaren. "I think it was a good performance. We played without fear. That is very important," Capello said. "It is important to win at Wembley for the players psychologically. It is one step forward but we have to move on every game. I'm very happy that the things we tried in training came off. There was a lot of movement in the team."
"When we needed to play the long ball we did and when we needed to play it short we did. I liked the pressing and the fact we won the ball back so quickly. We didn't waste a lot of time winning the ball back."
He may have been slightly more concerned by Wayne Rooney's typically combustible display. The Manchester United forward combined well with Jermain Defoe on occasions but was fortunate to escape censure from referee Kyros Vassaras for a rash second-half challenge. Capello defended Rooney, publicly at least. "He didn't score a goal but he played very well. He played for the team. I spoke to him afterwards and he was happy."
US coach Bradley admitted his side, who also face Spain and Argentina in forthcoming friendlies, were still short of England's standard. "When you win a game like we did in Poland recently it doesn't mean you have arrived. England raised the bar and it showed we still have some way to go," he said.