Captain Apathetic

Captain England, looking swish

England play the Netherlands tomorrow night, in the game which was originally postponed due to last August’s riots. As you may have heard, largely from the global media, Fabio Capello has resigned as England manager and has been replaced, on an initially caretaker basis at least, by Stuart Pearce. Pearce has already corrected the one glaring omission from Capello’s most recent squads (Micah Richards), and appears, controversially, to be picking at least some players based on form rather than reputation (Frazier Campbell’s inclusion being the obvious one in this category).

Pearce has, unfortunately, become somewhat inevitably embroiled in that most pointless of debates surrounding the England national side – the captaincy, and thus his own “choice” for captain. The main headline on the BBC Sport website is currently “Pearce waits to name England captain.” So on the sports homepage of one of the most highly-respected media organisations (and indeed web-based news providers) in the world, the top story is basically “caretaker manager waits until tomorrow to name captain for a game taking place tomorrow.” For me, Pearce is taking exactly the right line (I do like Stuart Pearce, by the way). He realises this is, for now at least, a temporary job for him. He therefore isn’t letting the media push him into any decisions which may bind his future boss as to the captaincy.

And why should he? The captaincy in football is almost an irrelevance – it’s a bloke who happens to wear an armband for 90 minutes, and doesn’t deserve any press attention whatsoever. The captaincy seems to have been a massive deal for England since David Beckham took it on, and then when Capello did his preposterous captaincy “rehearsal” for Ferdinand, Terry and Gerrard. The point is, no-one cares. I’m pretty sure Spain don’t definitely need Iker Casillas to be wearing a shiny armband to perform the way they do; England needs to take the same approach. The captaincy is not and never can be the main event.

Indeed, anyone in the starting 11 can be the captain in football. You lead the players out at the start, you shake hands with the oppo and the referee in the centre circle and carry out a wee photo opp with the mascot(s), then the game starts and no-one cares any more. It’s a well-worn cliche, but some cliches are such because they’re true – you ideally want 11 leaders on the pitch. Football isn’t an instructive sport in that way that relies on a man on the field’s vision for the game (cricket being the obvious opposite case in point) – who wears the armband should be utterly irrelevant as soon as the ref’s first whistle blows. England need to get this in their heads and stop making it such an unerringly massive issue that it dominates the media build-up to what should, notwithstanding the fact it’s an international friendly, be a fairly intriguing match against the mighty Dutch. My advice for Pearce? Pick who you like, and make it as off the wall a decision as possible.

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