John Terry & English Expectations

9 By Ian  |   The Ball  |   June 21, 2010  |     33

On Friday night in Cape Town, the England 2010 World Cup team played as if they had passed into the spirit world. All but invisible, they made an absolute mockery of their pre-tournament hype (which, in spite of everything that we know about know about them and the realism of the ordinary, everyday supporters, ended up as high in the media as it always does). Since then, the distinct impression coming from their Rustenberg headquarters has been of a group of players that is desperate to pin the blame for their shortcomings on just about anybody but themselves. Wayne Rooney has apologised for his comments on Friday night, but he can consider himself likely that, in the torrent of future chip wrappers that have poured forth over the last three days or so, his half a dozen or so words will be drowned by those of The Man That Would Still Be Captain: John Terry.

Terry’s press conference yesterday morning already seems likely to be the defining moment of England’s story at the 2010 World Cup finals. It could be overshadowed by a colossal turnaround on the pitch, but expectations of those at home are now so low that it seems almost inconceivable that this team will be able to arrest their fall from grace against Slovenia on Wednesday afternoon. Furthermore, it now feels as if a growing number of English football-watchers no longer even wants the team to scramble their way through the group stages of the competition. Heaven knows the England football team is unpopular enough already, but somehow Terry has managed to find a way of making them even more so. You’d have suspected a Machiavellian plan if it had felt as if any planning had actually taken place.

His words, however, weren’t quite subtle enough to carry anything genuine of the dark arts about them. However, they were straightforward enough to be torn to pieces in the press within hours, yet oblique enough to make the neutral think, “If you’re going to slate the manager, at least do it with the same amount of panache as Nicolas Anelka did”. Terry has been indulged for years at Chelsea. He saw off Jose Mourninho and Avram Grant, after all. His words seem to betray a belief that he could also see off Fabio Capello, and he may yet do. Capello, one of the genuinely great coaches in the modern world game, could be more than forgiven for thinking, “Bugger this for a game of soldiers” and disappearing in a Milanwardly direction as soon as this tournament is over. Few would blame him, though such a decision would be a massively retrograde step for the England team.

Ironically, one of Terry’s key requests has started to feel less likely for the simple reason that he requested it in the first place. There is, on balance, a case to be made for the inclusion of Joe Cole in the England squad. The matter of whether he should play or not now runs the risk of becoming a matter of principle now, though. Any decision to play Cole will carry a subtext far beyond mere footballing matters, and the irony is that the most likely loser in this eventuality will be Joe Cole himself. It is far from unreasonable to suggest that Capello is certainly no more likely to pick Cole as a result of Terry’s outburst. To this extent, both Capello and Cole have been put in a near impossible position by his words. Playing Joe Cole against Slovenia is no longer, if you will, merely a matter of playing Joe Cole against Slovenia any more.

Some of his other comments don’t merely border upon the ridiculous; rather, they run straight through that particular demarcation line with their arms flapping and their tongues lolling. His comment that, “I personally think that him [Joe Cole] and Wayne [Rooney] are the only two in the side who can really open things up and be the key to breaking down defences” seems to indicate that he wasn’t even paying attention to England’s opening two matches of the tournament, during which the only significant goal-scoring chances fell to Steven Gerrard (who scored inside four minutes against the United States – how long ago does that feel now?), Emile Heskey and Frank Lampard. Now, each of those players have their limitations, but Rooney hasn’t scored for England since last September and Cole has only scored ten goals in fifty-four appearances for his country. Regardless of this, to make such a blanket statement as this makes no sense. How might the likes of Gerrard and Lampard have taken such a comment? What exactly did that do for “team unity”?

John Terry would do well to remember that, in spite of the way in which he may still regard himself, Steven Gerrard is the captain now, but it is this in itself that may be the root cause for his pique. Being stripped of the England captaincy in the first place was the sort of embarrassment that Terry is not exactly used to. Could his outburst be linked to the fact that he was overlooked in favour of Gerrard when Rio Ferdinand had to drop out of the squad through injury a couple of weeks ago. Surely Terry wouldn’t be so stupid to admit as much publicly, but it remains a possibility. He left himself open to criticism in saying that, “there are things to do around the training camp – mini darts tournaments, snooker and pool. But a bit of boredom kicks in. It’s six or seven hours until we meet up for dinner again”, after all, and this has been interpreted by many as if he believed that the World Cup finals would be a pleasant holiday with a couple of football matches thrown in.

Most likely, however, much of this is all so much press filler. The players will likely continue to beat their chests whilst passing the ball around themselves monotonously before conceding possession. They may fall through into the knockout stages and they may even turn in a performance that surpasses our diminished expectations of them. At this precise moment in time, however, there is very little expectation of anything even approaching greatness from England at this tournament. The only people that can change this in an actual, tangible way are the players. However much there is or isn’t in talk of “coups d’etat” or “mutinies”, nothing can disguise that basic fact. If they are in a tactical straitjacket, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect such a generation of superstars to break out of said jacket. It seems unlikely that anybody would mind if they did and were successful. If they can’t, however, perhaps the truth of the matter is that they weren’t particularly deserving of that status in the first place.

And perhaps the English – the players, the media and the supporters – need to readjust their expectation levels. It is over half a century since England, having made the finals of the World Cup, last failed to get through the group stages of competition. There is no automatic right to as much as a place in the World Cup finals itself, never mind the last sixteen of the competition. On the basis of what we have seen so far, better teams than England will be knocked out of the competition at the first hurdle, even if England get through. Perhaps the fact that England haven’t had to suffer an ignomious first round exit of the World Cup since considerably before the introduction of decimal currency in Britain, man landed on the moon or The Beatles recorded “Love Me Do” has inflated our sense of entitlement when it comes to the World Cup finals.



Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

  • June 21, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    algeria da best

    Wonderful post! England have to get serious about this tournament. They need to understand that a big country has their dreams on this team. They need to wake up and know that they didnt go to South Africa for a holiday. They came to play for their country and make the English pick their heads up in pride. Just like Terry said “I have left my wife and kids for 4 weeks to play well in this tournament and to go far in the World Cup” I just wish they’d show us what they really have and win at least 3-0 on Wednesday.

  • June 21, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    bruce thomas

    Check out the link here. Graeme Souness is saying that (he has inside info) that England’s medical team have made a big mistake with their altitude preparation and that the team is not tired, unmotivated or bored but are literally starved of oxygen and will be at their very lowest physical ebbon Wednesday!

  • June 21, 2010 at 11:03 pm


    I am dying for Capello to sit Terry and Rooney and win without them.

  • June 21, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    Mark @

    Good post.

    My personal feelings are that this World Cup is now beyond England. It’s all very well to criticise Capello and say that he should adopt this tactic or select that player. The performance against Algeria was nothing to do with tactics – it was a choke by the players, pure and simple.

    Whatever John Terry’s motives, and you can make a good case for a campaign of revenge over the lost armband (“I was born to do that sort of thing” says more than a desire to lead, Terry feels it is his right), the Slovenia game has become a trial on which will be judged Capello’s future. This is far more crucial than the potential for another couple of matches next week.

    I firmly believe, as you say in your post, that losing Capello would be a huge backward step. If it means excommunicating John Terry after the World Cup, then so be it.

    The excessive influence of players is one of the main reasons Capello was hired, and I hope he gets the FA’s backing to finish the job. The next logical step is for Terry to be swiftly and permanently excommunicated after the World Cup. The Slovenia match has become the end game between Terry and Capello and this becomes it’s main significance above the World Cup itself.

  • June 22, 2010 at 12:44 am


    I think you are wrong to suggest that Capello now can’t pick Joe Cole because it would make it look like Terry ‘won’. A response like that from Mclaren maybe, but I don’t think Capello gives a toss what Terry thinks, or what the media thinks, or what the media thinks about what he thinks about what Terry thinks and so on…

    It seems likely that if he wants to pick Cole (and he did put him the squad so it must be on the cards), then he will pick him for footballing reasons only. And if he doesn’t he wont.

    At least I f… hope so.

  • June 22, 2010 at 7:24 am


    The media will see to it that Capello goes if England don’t put in at least one impressive performance before they get knocked out, so it doesn’t look good for him. And when he does go, I’m sure the same events will happen over and over again before and during each major tournament before someone realises there’s more to it than the manager’s failings. If England don’t qualify on Wednesday, it won’t be because Joe Cole was left out, or Heskey was played, or Robert Green made a massive blunder, it will be because players who are world class for their teams such as Gerrard, Lampard, Rooney etc. didn’t perform at all, and neither did the rest of the squad. How many managers do England need to go through before the real problems with the FA’s England team are addressed?

  • June 22, 2010 at 8:49 am

    Mark Murphy

    John Terry summed himself up magnificently with his phrase “I was born to do that sort of stuff” – in responsr to a question about ‘leadership.’

    It was the key to this whole issue, as rightly suggested in the spot-on article above – Terry still regards himself as “leader” despite the (C) against Gerrard’s name on the teamsheet.

    And it was typical Terry. What started out as a suggestion of an intellectual concept – destiny – turned into chav s***e within the confines of a short sentence. A mixture of arrogance and ignorance which has long been one of the most unattractive of his many unattractive qualities.

    He has been one of England’s least culpable performers to date, to be fair to him, and he won’t be penned in for tomorrow just because the alternative is Dawson and Upson. But he remains a big-headed, pig-headed stupid boy.

    BTW: Proper use of “Coups D’Etat.” Excellent stuff

  • June 22, 2010 at 11:42 am


    The problem with benching Rooney, good idea that it is, is that he’s already been so overhyped, indulged, and showered with cash that he’ll Gazza – sulk, turn to entourage wankers and the tabs, run up a disciplinary record as long as your arm, pie-out to nine million stone and pick up a hard to resolve cruciate injury – and we’ll never be able to play him again. There’s an argument that Alex Ferguson’s influence would counter this, but it might do so through simply assigning him a permanent international-week niggle.

  • June 23, 2010 at 1:22 pm


    All of this drama can be forgotten if England wins today, which I’m fairly certain they will, and move into at least the quarter finals. Its definitely possible, England just needs to wake up on the pitch and start playing with some creativity and emotion.

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