England Should End Captaincy Obsession

In an ideal world and in the purest terms it should be viewed as a fantastic honour to ‘lead’ your country, but the England captaincy had become an embarrassing circus and unnecessary distraction long before John Terry was stripped of it for a second time.

This latest set of unwelcome headlines has only strengthened my own personal belief that England, as a football nation, now puts far too much emphasis on what has become more of a symbolic than practical role.

At the highest level of international competition, is it really so incredibly important who wears the captain’s armband?

Would England’s chances of winning their first honour since 1966 really be affected that greatly by having John Terry or A N Other’s name marked with a ‘C’ on the team-sheet?

I suspect the majority of people would reply with a ‘no’, yet we’re subjected to endless debates and speculation about the England captaincy, like it’s a matter of the utmost importance.

Ask other nationalities about their own country’s captaincy and they’re not likely to have a great deal to say about it.

Most other nations simply don’t attach such a weight of importance to the role, in fact in a lot of cases the captain is picked on the basis of who is the oldest or most capped player.

Just like in many other jobs and walks of life, knowledge and experience are seen as the most important credentials to be able to lead.

There’s also perhaps a presumption, that a team containing a nation’s best footballers, won’t be so reliant on the leadership and influence of one individual.

Surely any team at that level should contain several players with leadership qualities – men able to use their know-how and experience in difficult situations, without fear of being accused of trying to steal the lime-light from a supposed ‘figure-head’.

Football is after all a team game, and it’s maybe not a coincidence that England line-ups have often looked more like a collection of individuals than a cohesive unit.

This has rarely been more evident than during David Beckham’s ‘reign’ as England captain from November 2000 until the 2006 World Cup Finals.

Here was a good footballer, who always gave 100% for his country and led by example on the field of play, yet the group of players around him, labelled England’s ‘Golden Generation’ by some, repeatedly failed to live up to their lofty billing.

To lay the blame for that squarely at Beckham’s door would be ridiculous, but I don’t believe it helped that this group of players had such a big personality to hide behind.

During Beckham’s time as Captain the role became too significant, almost ambassadorial in fact – hugely different from the traditional role of a skipper, who might just lift a player low in confidence or give some wise words of advice to a debutant.

Perhaps by accident, the title of ‘England Captain’ also seemed to become worth huge credits in the celebrity and commercial world’s – individuals and businesses queuing up to be associated with it.

How much of that was down to the marketability of Beckham himself is debateable, but I’ve even read since, that an England skipper can expect to see their endorsement earning potential increase by up to a million pounds a year.

Bobby Moore could only have dreamt of getting such sums of money for his Bisto Gravy and “Look in at the local” Pub adverts, but the fact he did them at all proves that this is not an entirely new phenomenon.

Often described as his country’s ‘greatest-ever’ Captain, perhaps Moore still has plenty to do with England’s obsession with the role, forty-six years after he lifted the Jules Rimet trophy at Wembley.

We can all picture that image in our minds, Moore lifted aloft by his team-mates in that famous red-shirt, the trophy in his right hand, a Wembley floodlight and blue sky in the background.

It’s probably English football’s most iconic photograph, unyet no-one would ever suggest Moore won that match single-handedly; it was very much a great team performance.

Even so, the English public, and perhaps more significantly the media, seem desperate for a succession of modern day Moores’.

Sold on the myth that a national team needs one individual to admire and respect above any other – it’s convenient and preferable if they’re also a marketable commodity who’ll shift newspapers and magazines.

Some will say there isn’t an Englishman currently available to Fabio Capello who fits the bill, but I don’t believe that’s any bad thing.


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