Who really cares about the England captaincy anyway?



There's always a burning question with England. Over the last year alone pubs, pull-outs and punditry sofas have been rife with discussion about the national side. We've debated who should be the manager, what players he should pick, what shape they should play, and even how often they should be allowed on social networking sites. But one thing we've not talked about is who should be wearing the armband.

Somewhere down the line, history will record that of all Fabio Capello's real or imagined problems with the England job, it was ultimately the captaincy that forced him to hang up his glasses, gesticulate wildly and leave. He'd picked a captain, the FA waded in and changed things, and he threw his £1.5 million toys out of his pram.

Nobody really seemed to get too wound up about this though, because (a) precious few people were too upset about his departure, and (b) even fewer could defend John Terry, given the recent... um... unpleasantness.

But last Friday, with a wheezing and hobbling Frank Lampard sent back to Chelsea and Steven Gerrard refusing to get our of a comfy chair, Roy Hodgson passed the armband to Wayne Rooney and the entire country made that noise your grandparents make when someone swears on television.

Some had concerns over his leadership abilities. Other questioned his temperament or whether or not he was a fitting role model for the millions of disinterested adolescents that make up England's young fanbase. Very few questioned his inclusion in the team, but giving him the armband was a decision so unpopular it might as well have been announced at the Tory Party Conference by a cackling George Osbourne.

Wayne Rooney is an allegedly adulterous, occasionally violent young man who has appeared on the front page of newspapers almost as often as he's appeared on the back. He currently holds the record for having been sent off more than any other England international, hasn't excelled for his country since about Euro 2004, and is the third highest paid player in the world. Irresponsible, insolent, and immoral, he is the perfect candidate for the captaincy because he embodies everything the modern footballer aspires to be.

That might sound flippant, but if there's been one thing the last few years should have proved it's that the little bit of elastic that goes around a footballer's bicep is about as meaningful as the wedding vows players enthusiastically gave to girls they meet in tanning salons.

England are currently going through the long and traumatic process of accepting that there never was a “golden generation”. Rio Ferdinand is currently living in cupboard under Piers Morgan's stairs, David Beckham's a gentle bump away from Scientology, Ashley Cole is having to puppy-dog-eye his way back on to the bus, and every other player's parents have decided they don't want them playing with that John Terry boy again.

Wayne Rooney is still only 26 and, as Tom Cleverly's selection demonstrates, you'll always get into the England team if you're playing for Manchester United. He'll be the staple main on the haphazard à la carte menu that is the national side for at least another 5 years - a selection security that nobody else in the squad can claim to have.

A few people have pointed out how dull and contrived his first press conference was, but what exactly were you expecting? It's not as if Alan Shearer used to stride in with a 40-strong marching band or Bryan Robson phrased every answer in haiku.

“Mr Butcher, how are you planning to deal with Belgium's wing-back system?”

“Well, my good boy. Allow me to answer you... in song!”

The truth of the matter is that we place too much importance on the captain's armband. Modern football requires leadership all over the pitch. To think that one pre-assigned individual is somehow going to inspire all those around him to super-human feats of skill and endurance is as naïve as it is out-dated.

Rooney might not seem like the most likely foot soldier to be bumped up to Admiral, but ultimately it doesn't matter anyway. Even if it did, though, Wayne is hardly inheriting some gold-plated mantle. Beckham took us to quarter-finals, Gerrard presided over our successive second-round drubbings, and John Terry didn't even captain us during a major tournament. So ask yourself honestly: could our Wayne really do any worse?


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