LONDON, February 5 – John Terry's future as England captain may be decided Friday after days of pressure over his alleged extra-marital affair with the former partner of a team-mate.Head coach Fabio Capello flew into England Thursday and will make a decision soon on whether to strip the defender of the captaincy just months before the World Cup in South Africa.
Reports the married 29-year-old had an affair with model Vanessa Perroncel, the former partner of international team-mate Wayne Bridge, have sharply divided opinion in football-mad England.
Capello returned to England after recuperating from a recent knee operation in Switzerland and was expected to decide on Terry’s future before Sunday’s draw for Euro 2012 qualifying in Warsaw.
But the Italian faces a tricky judgement over how to respond to a situation which has triggered heated debate — he will be severely criticised whatever course of action he takes.
A poll published Friday highlighted just how split the English public are over the fate of their football team’s captain.
While the majority — 46 percent of those quizzed — thought Terry should be made to stand down, this was not far off the number who favoured him keeping the job, which came in at 39 percent.
And just over half of respondents thought there was no need for the public to know about the affair, while 44 percent believed the interest legitimate, in the PoliticsHome poll that questioned more than 1,000 Britons.
Terry’s alleged affair has resulted in him being pilloried, in the words of one columnist, as a "five-star scumbag" while numerous football figures have accused him of breaking a dressing room taboo by getting involved with the former partner of Bridge.
As Dave Bassett, the former Wimbledon and Sheffield Utd manager, put it: "I’ve had players who have left their missus or had bits and pieces on the side but they’ve not gone off with a team-mate’s bird. That’s crossing a line and where it comes unstuck with Terry."
But former England manager Graham Taylor took a measured view, saying Capello would think of how the decision to strip Terry of the captaincy would affect his performance as the team heads into the World Cup.
"The most important thing is how he performs as a player, not that he’s the captain," Taylor told BBC radio.
Capello could opt to take the view that events in Terry’s private life are none of his business and have no bearing on the player’s role with England.
But that line may be untenable if — as has been reported — Bridge is not willing to be part of an England squad led by Terry.
On the other hand, if he decides to drop Terry in order to accommodate Bridge, Capello will be accused of undermining England’s chances of winning the World Cup in South Africa later this year.
Bridge, who is currently England’s second-choice left-back but by no means assured of making Capello’s final squad for the World Cup, has not made any public comment.
Terry has so far resisted calls for him to resign the captaincy and issued a statement on Tuesday saying he would not be making a decision before he had spoken to Capello.
Reports of Terry’s infidelity were published after a High Court judge lifted an injunction on the media barring disclosure of the alleged affair, ruling that it could not be justified under current English law.