John Terry with current England manager Roy Hodgson
"There's only one England captain."
Come to Stamford Bridge on any given match day and chances are, if John Terry is in the Chelsea side, you'll hear that song. Despite numerous salacious stories emerging about the current Chelsea and former England captain, football fans of my generation can all appreciate the hole his absence will leave at the heart of the England defence.
The reason for his premature retirement seems to hinge on The FA's decision to continue to pursue their own charges against Terry over the alleged racist incident involving QPR defender Anton Ferdinand at Loftus Road on October 23rd 2011.
The FA began an internal investigation into the incident, which was suspended when criminal charges were brought against Terry. The criminal case was heard at Westminster Magistrates Court earlier this year and Terry was found not guilty due to insufficient evidence to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt.
Since then, the FA have decided to reopen their investigation and it is this decision that has led Terry to stand down from the national team. Via Elite Management:
"I am making this statement today in advance of the hearing of the FA disciplinary charge because I feel that The FA, in pursuing charges against me where I have already been cleared in a court of law, have made my position with the national team untenable."
Terry has 78 caps for England and captained the side 34 times. Despite the on-again-off-again nature of his captaincy, his world-class abilities as a centre back combined with the leadership he displays both on and off the pitch leave England manager Roy Hodgson in a bit of a bind. Who can replace Terry, both as England's first choice centre back, and as their most natural leader?
Anton Ferdinand's brother Rio has, in the past, been the natural choice to both partner and deputy for Terry on the national side, but his long-running back injury has left him to further drift from the minds of the recent England managers.
He is of a similar age to Terry and is therefore unlikely to make a significant impact should he ever return for England. Another option to fill the centre back position is Terry's Chelsea teammate Gary Cahill. If he is given a shot, there is every chance he could be a very good central defender for his country; but at the moment, he lacks the leadership qualities that John Terry has in abundance.
So who should captain?
Steven Gerrard currently has the armband, but for me, this feels like the best of a bad bunch. While he holds the same legendary status at Liverpool as Terry does at Chelsea, he lacks the same oomph for England and seems to struggle to get the team to follow his lead.
The same can be said of vice captain Frank Lampard, who captained Chelsea on that triumphant night in Munich, but has been quiet for England of late. There is also the fact that both Gerrard and Lampard are moving ever closer to retirement themselves, and the next generation of England players are still finding their feet on the international stage.
I find it sad that it had to come to this. Whilst Terry is no stranger to controversy, some of which he brought upon himself, he is still an outstanding footballer, and Roy Hodgson—assuming he is on the job long enough to work on the shaky foundations and build a squad for the long-term future—will have to look far and wide to find a replacement for a strong captain, a great leader and a football legend.