The news that Steven Gerrard had ‘retired’ from international football, and therefore vacated the England captaincy, probably came as no surprise to anyone in particular, given England’s lacklustre performance in the World Cup. The doyens of Fleet Street – or wherever they sit banging away at their keyboards these days – have however probably gone into apoplexy at the thought of a few weeks’ debate over who will inherit the ‘armband’ from Stevie G – once the transfer window is closed, of course. I have to ask a question however. Is it only me, or do any other fans agree, that all of this brouhaha over the England captaincy is so much stuff and nonsense about next to nothing?
Within a few minutes of the official announcement that the armband was being hung up to await the next recipient in line, the bookies had got odds sorted on who would be the lucky chap chosen to head up the England team. For those interested, it’s pretty short odds that the player designated to call heads or tails in the centre circle will be Wayne Rooney. Unless things change dramatically between me writing this and the official announcement from Roy Hodgson, ‘Cap’n Wayne’ will be leading out the team at the next international. Odds-on favourite for the job, as long as he doesn’t introduce Louis van Gaal to a Kirby Kiss, or blot his copybook in some other way, it’ll be his to lose.
Yes, of course, I know it’s an honour to play for your country. And, yes, I also appreciate that leading your country must the cherry on top of a very nice cake, but here’s the question that almost dare not breathe its own name: Does it really matter who has the armband on?
“What?” I can hear the howls of derision from the journos of the mainstream press arising already – if they ever read my blogs, which I’m sure they don’t. And why should they? At these times, it always seems to me that the ‘feeding frenzy’ they go into over a piece of cloth tied around someone’s arm is bordering on delinquency. Or have I crossed a line there?
Look, here’s my point. Steven Gerrard is an exceptional footballer and his performances have been worthy of great credit. But the nub of the issue is whether he played any better, produced any more effort or offered greater inspiration to his team-mates just because he had an armband on? If the answer is no, then why do we worry who is captain? Be it Gerrard, Rooney, Terry or Old Uncle Tom Cobbley and all? If it makes no difference, why the big fuss and bother? Ah, I hear some saying, but sometimes being captain can add an extra 5% or 10% – pick your own number – to a player’s performance, My answer would be: “Really?” If a player can only give of his best when he is captain of a team, I’m not sure he should be in the side anyway. Should he not be giving his all, anyway?
Some players are born leaders on the pitch and whether they are captain or not probably makes little difference to the way they deliver a performance. It surely has little bearing on the way they encourage, cajole or organise their team-mates. The pride with which they pull on the shirt, even the way they sing the anthem. They would do precisely the same things, whether they were captain or not. Gerrard certainly fits into this category, as do previous ‘skippers’ such as Tony Adams, John Terry or Alan Shearer. Am I convincing anybody? Well, I can hear some some say, “What would you suggest, then?”
OK. Here’s my answer. Forget all this fuss and palaver about who is the England captain. Pick your best team. Then, the one with the most caps is the captain. Simple as. End of. Even if he’s pretty useless at calling it right at the toss of a coin, does it really matter? I read a while ago that when Fabio Capello was appointed as England manager, he couldn’t understand the hype surrounding the captaincy of his team. For all the things he got wrong, for me, he got that one right on the money.
I’ve got nothing against Wayne Rooney being England captain. Although he probably wouldn’t have been my choice, but if it’s Rooney, then that’s it. Please though, can we cut out all of the media hype and back-page columns inches devoted to such a non-issue? If England ever win a decent pot, perhaps a European championship or, whisper it so softly, a World Cup again, personally I wouldn’t care who it is lifting that trophy. If he’s wearing the Three Lions on his shirt, that’ll do for me. And I certainly wouldn’t care how good he was at calling heads or tails!
(This All blue Daze article was originally produced for the ‘touchlinebanter.com’ website.