Terry saga raises stakes as England face Wales

LONDON, March 25, 2011 (AFP) - England travel to Wales for a vital Euro 2012 qualifier on Saturday with Fabio Capello knowing only a win will do after a public relations blunder that has hurt the Italian manager's credibility.

Capello's decision to reinstate John Terry as captain would have been controversial at the best of times -- but the clumsy way in which it was announced has substantially raised the stakes as England head to Cardiff.

Trailing Montenegro by three points, England have little margin for error following last October's dismal 0-0 draw at Wembley with the Group G leaders.

A defeat against Wales, who are bottom of the group after losing all three of their matches, and the calls for Capello's dismissal may become deafening.

Publicly, England's players have all voiced support for the move to restore the armband to Terry, who was sacked last year after lurid allegations about his relationship with the ex-girlfriend of team-mate Wayne Bridge.

Privately, however, there is reported to be unhappiness at the treatment of Rio Ferdinand, a popular figure in the England dressing room who learnt of Terry's return as captain via a newspaper report.

Capello, who only last year said Terry would never captain England again while he remained in charge, said he changed his mind after seeing the armband moved between several players in last month's friendly against Denmark.

The Italian also believes the expected intimidating atmoshphere at the Millennium Stadium will require an experienced captain.

"Wales will be a tough game. The atmosphere, everything is incredible, and we need a captain with a big personality, a leader," Capello said.

"When John played without the armband, he was every time a leader. He is the biggest personality in the dressing room.

"He made mistakes but is normal. The players respect Terry as a leader, absolutely. One year's punishment is enough."

Terry, meanwhile, has responded to the furore over his return with typical defiance, stating without the merest hint of contrition that he still firmly believed he should never have lost the job in the first place.

"As I said to the manager at the time, I accepted their decision. It doesn't mean to say I agreed with it, and I never will. That's me being very proud and having been honest with them," Terry said.

"Over the last year I'd like to think I've personally kept my head down and done the right thing."

Terry also responded to suggestions that his reinstatement had split the England dressing room by stating that the squad was behind him whilst acknowledging he was "not everyone's cup of tea."

"When the manager confronted the team on the training pitch, he asked the players if they had any questions and nobody spoke. Nobody said a word to the manager, nobody said a word to me," Terry told reporters on Tuesday.

"I'm not going to be everybody's cup of tea, but it is the decision the manager has taken.

The captaincy saga has deflected attention away from Capello's plans for Wales, which could see veteran midfielder Frank Lampard dropped.

Capello is expected to partner Jack Wilshere in midfield alongside either Gareth Barry or Scott Parker, while James Milner and Aaron Lennon occupy the flanks behind a strike partnership of Wayne Rooney and Andy Carroll.

England's task has been made substantially easier with news that Wales winger Gareth Bale is unavailable after suffering a hamstring injury.

Wales manager Gary Speed meanwhile admits that his team's chances of qualification for next year's finals in Poland and Ukraine were remote.

"In terms of qualification from this group it's going to be very difficult because we've already lost the first three games and if we win the next five we might still not have enough points to qualify," he said.

"I think the important thing is to make sure when the 2014 qualifiers start in 18 months' time we're in a place to compete."

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