By Kevin Koczwara
When Fabio Capello began managing of the England National team in 2008, he the team’s most qualified players a chance to claim the captain’s armband by showing they could lead the squad on and off the field. One of the players Capello gave the opportunity to was Steven Gerrard, and the Liverpool midfielder could not convince the Italian manager.
Capello named Chelsea defender John Terry captain of the Three Lions, but Capello was forced to make an unexpected change.
When Terry’s extramarital affairs become public knowledge, Capello was forced to make a a tough decision and remove Terry from the captaincy. Terry’s affair affected the England locker room directly, his choice of mistress was a teammate’s ex-girlfriend. When the news broke about Terry sleeping with Wayne Bridge’s ex-girlfriend, the England locker room and brutal English press forced Capello to look for a new leader.
Capello named Rio Ferdinand England’s captain and Steven Gerrard as the Manchester United center back’s vice-captain. Since being named captain, Ferdinand has barely seen a lick of action because of injury problems, leaving Gerrard to lead the Three Lions.
England’s World Cup campaign disappointed as they were knocked out in the round of 16 by a better German squad.
England’s start to their Euro 2012 qualification has been much better, and a major reason for the resurgence of the squad has been the play of Gerrard in the middle of the England midfield.
Gerrard’s international career looked as if it were on its last legs during the World Cup with England’s abundance of young wingers and up-and-coming midfielders. For Liverpool this season, Gerrard has been playing as a box-to-box center midfielder who can tackle as well as score, and at times he has been implored as as a second striker, where his former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez preferred him. The two roles in the middle of the midfield are where Gerrard has excelled and made the biggest impact for his club, but rarely has he been able to shine for his country in his preferred positions, but it looks like he may be getting his chance after the performances he put in last week.
For much of Gerrard’s time playing for England he has been deployed on the wings as an attacking midfielder. England’s managers have felt he can be best used on the outside because of his ability to cross the ball, and his good work rate that allows him to track back and defend for an overlapping full back. Gerrard has had to compete with Frank Lampard for one of the center midfield position for England, and Lampard’s league scoring record has made him a favorite of many managers when they pick the England squad.
With Lampard’s injury last week and Fabio Capello’s need for a sturdier midfield, Gerrard moved into the center of the Three Lions midfield alongside Gareth Barry. This new role is how Roy Hodgson, Liverpool’s manager, has been employing Gerrard in the league thus far, and it has worked. Gerrard’s work rate and skill in the middle has allowed other players around him to play more freely, and his underrated ability to tackle has made up for the lack of talent around him.
For England the new tactic has allowed the young English wingers Adam Johnson, Theo Walcott and James Milner to attack opposing defenses and create scoring chances for the English strikers. The formula has worked. By putting Gerrard in a traditional central midfielders role, not an attacking midfielder or supporting striker, Wayne Rooney and the other English attackers have been given more room to attack and Gerrard has supplied them with great service and the reassurance that someone will be behind them to clean up their mistakes.
Gerrard has been leading the team during the Euro qualifiers with poise and excellent play on the field. It’s time for Capello to name him captain of the Three Lions for good. Rio Ferdinand has only played two games as the team’s captain because of an untimely injury to knee ligaments the day before the World Cup, and that isn’t his fault, but it’s about time for Capello to give the armband to someone who has been their for the team and helped them rebound.
Fulham midfielder Danny Murphy, a former teammate of Gerrard’s at Liverpool, told the Guardian in England, “he is emerging as our real leader. Rio has done absolutely nothing wrong but given his unfortunate injury record he will be grateful, initially, just to be back in the squad. For the sake of continuity, I think Capello must stick with Steven as captain.”
Capllo hasn’t had it easy while managing England (but what manager does?) after taking over after the Three Lions failed to qualify for the Euros in 2008. Capello has had to deal with John Terry, Ashley Cole and Wayne Rooney’s scandals, a disappointing World Cup, and a feisty English Press. But selecting his long term captain should be easy enough, Gerrard has proved he is more than worthy of the armband.
Kevin Koczwara is a contributing editor and writer for The Soccer Guys. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Kevin Koczwara