Capello confuses England by making Barry captain
It may be for one night only, but it’s still a puzzler from the England coach
In most sporting teams, once you loss your pace, form and confidence you're finished, but in the England football team you're rewarded with the captaincy. Such is the way Fabio Capello's mind works.
Or, to put it another way, only Capello truly knows why he's appointed Gareth Barry as skipper for tonight's friendly against Ghana at Wembley just days after dropping him from the squad that played Wales in a Euro 2012 qualifier.
Barry himself admitted he was knocked back when he heard the news. "It was a surprise," he said. "To find myself not involved at the weekend and then, a few days later, to be told I'm going to lead the team out at Wembley sums up how quickly it can change. Saturday was disappointing for me but you try to keep your head and this is great news."
Great news for Barry, perhaps, but for the majority of England fans the sight of the 30-year-old Manchester City midfielder leading out his country epitomises the confused and conservative approach of Capello.
Barry is not an international footballer. He lacks the skill and pace, as Germany showed in last year's World Cup when they romped to a 4-1 victory against England. Barry was exposed in that match as a decent club footballer out of his depth on the world stage.
Yet nine months later he is given the honour of leading out his country at Wembley. Admittedly, the captaincy options are limited after Capello released six senior players from the squad for tonight's friendly against Ghana, including John Terry, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard. And with Steven Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand out injured, Barry is one of the most experienced players at Capello's disposal.
But that's not the point. Meaningless friendlies like tonight's match at Wembley are the chance to experiment with the captaincy, blood someone for the years ahead. But Capello is a man who likes to stick to the tried and trusted, however inept they may be.
"I'm well aware there are a lot of players not here and, in different circumstances, I wouldn't be captain but I can't let that take anything away from it," said Barry, who will be the seventh player to captain England during Capello's tenure. "I'm going to lead my country out. As disappointed as I was on Saturday, this is going to be a great honour."
Barry will have under his command an inexperienced team. Capello confirmed on Monday that he will be starting with Scott Parker, Leighton Barnes and striker Andy Carroll. Caroll made his international debut in last November's 2-1 defeat to France and since then the big Geordie has rarely been out of the news. As well as making a £35m move from Newcastle to Liverpool in January, Carroll has also been the focus of several sordid tabloid allegations in which sex, drink and violence featured prominently.
In announcing that Carroll would start against Ghana, Capello also issued a warning to the Liverpool frontman. "He needs to be careful at every moment," he said. "When you play with England you are the focus of the fans, the newspapers, the photographers, the people who live around you... he's strong. He's a good forward. But he needs to improve, to drink less."