WATFORD, March 23- John Terry has hit back at the critics who slammed his reappointment as England captain by insisting he should never have been stripped of the armband in the first place.
Terry has regained the leadership of Fabio Capello’s team just over a year after the England coach deprived him of the honour following an alleged affair with the partner of team-mate Wayne Bridge and reports that he was exploiting the captaincy for financial gain.
Capello’s decision has been criticised in some quarters because it is felt Terry’s distasteful activities off the pitch showed such a lack of respect for the captaincy that he should not have been given a second chance.
Much to Terry’s consternation he has become regarded as one of the poster boys for everything that is wrong with English football and he could have gone some way to changing that perception with a contrite tone when he met the English media at the team’s hotel ahead of Saturday’s Euro 2012 qualifier against Wales.
Instead Terry insisted that, although he has made a concious effort to avoid negative headlines of late, he still felt he had been harshly treated by Capello last year.
"Change my ways? That’s a difficult word," Terry said. "When I spoke to Fabio, and we can’t go into too much details, but when he knew the facts, he knew.
"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.
"Over the last year I’d like to think I’ve personally kept my head down and done the right thing.
"As we get older, we live and learn. We move on. As a man, as a player, we can see I’ve moved on, on and off the field."
Those accusations of making money off the back of his privileged position were also given short shrift by the Chelsea defender.
"I’ve never cashed in. I’m not the best looking guy anyway, so people aren’t going to want me spread all over the place. But I’ve never tried to cash in on the England captaincy," he said.
Another black mark against Terry was a perceived attempt to destabilise Capello by publicly questioning him during the World Cup as revenge for taking away the captaincy.
On that subject, Terry was ready to admit he had gone too far, but he was adamant he was just trying to do the best for his country.
"I just wouldn’t come out publicly and say what I said. It would stay in-house. That’s what I learned from that," he said.
"Looking back, certain things I shouldn’t have said, but I can still hold my head up high.
"Certainly. I wasn’t trying to upset the apple cart, the squad, the manager. That’s not me."
With first-choice captain Rio Ferdinand too often injured and Steven Gerrard regarded by Capello as too timid a leader to galvanise the squad, the Italian has taken the substantial gamble of giving Terry a second chance.
However, he made such a mess of switching the armband that the situation reached farcical levels as Capello sat in the same directors’ box as Ferdinand without being able to talk to him.
That led to claims of an England dressing room potentially divided into factions supporting both players, but Terry tried to head off those disruptive suggestions as he invited team-mates to approach him in person if they had any grievances.
"Anyone who’s been around the squad for five or 10 games, I’d feel they should have the confidence to say what they feel," Terry said.
"I don’t want to get into too much detail about ‘moving on’, but it’s a massive thing for me today. The emotion is quite overwhelming.
"I had the worst night’s sleep ever, actually. I was pretty nervous to be honest.
"Coming out and having to deal with the questions and stuff like that. It was like the first day back at school really. An intimidating thing, even though I’ve been in this position many times before.
"The England captaincy comes with a responsibility. I totally understand that but it’s just so important for me to have it back now and to concentrate on the right things."