RUSTENBURG, June 21 – Fabio Capello was firmly back in control of England's World Cup campaign on Monday after a player revolt launched by John Terry fizzled out, leaving the former captain isolated.
Terry had launched his abortive coup by promising to air a string of grievances at a squad meeting, even if that meant upsetting Capello.
Versions of what went on in the meeting on Sunday evening vary but leaks from inside the camp to the English media were unanimous in indicating that no other senior player had been prepared to back the Chelsea defender.
Humiliatingly, Terry was reportedly persuaded not to say anything for fear of triggering a direct confrontation with the Italian which could have plunged England’s campaign into even deeper crisis ahead of their crucial meeting with Slovenia on Wednesday.
Terry’s mute presence at the meeting was in sharp contrast to the tone he adopted at a press conference on Sunday, where he had boasted of his readiness to do some straight talking.
"If we feel something has to change, we owe it to the country and the manager to say it in that meeting tonight," Terry said. "If it upsets him or any other player, so what."
Terry had also claimed that he had the backing of up to eight other members of the 23-man squad but it seems none of them were willing to risk the wrath of Capello by questioning the way he runs things on or off the pitch.
According to one version of events, Terry’s bullish public statement had angered his team-mates and he was told not to rock the boat any more ahead of the meeting with group C leaders Slovenia in Port Elizabeth.
That is a match England must win to ensure they avoid their earliest exit from a World Cup since 1958.
Inevitably, Terry’s outburst has been interpreted as a bid to undermine Capello’s position and take revenge on the Italian, who stripped him of the captaincy in February after it was reported that the Chelsea captain had been involved in an extra-marital affair with the mother of former team-mate Wayne Bridge’s child.
Capello subsequently explained that he felt England captains had to set a better example with their off-the-field conduct, although he underlined his respect for Terry as a player by keeping him in his squad at the expense of Bridge, who had indicated he could no longer share a dressing room with his former friend.
It was all smiles for the cameras at England’s training session on Monday morning but it remains to be seen whether Terry’s misjudged challenge to Capello’s authority costs him his place in the side.
That looks unlikely given that England lost captain Rio Ferdinand before the tournament and will be without the injured Ledley King and the suspended Jamie Carragher for the Slovenia match.
That means Capello has only three fit centrebacks to choose from: Terry, the uncapped Michael Dawson and Matthew Upson, who started four qualifiers when Ferdinand was injured but has since suffered a slump in form and fallen down the England pecking order.
Apart from King, Michael Carrick is England’s only other injury concern with the Manchester United midfielder battling to recover from a training ground knock in time for Wednesday’s match, in which he could well be involved if the Three Lions find themselves defending a lead late in the game.