Leading by Example: England's Stars Must Step Up for South Africa

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Leading by Example: England's Stars Must Step Up for South Africa
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Footballers, predominantly at the top level, are role models to the youth who look up to them for guidance, leadership, and inspiration.

Like any other major sports stars, they are consistently under the watchful eye of the media who follow their every move to turn their successes on the back page into failures on the front page.

Although, at the end of day, footballers are like any other person; they are human and are prone to mistakes. Nevertheless, once you are at the top, you must strive to work hard to stay there, both on performance and conduct.

When Fabio Capello was brought in as England manager, he was expected to shake things up and lay down the law so to speak.

He did exactly that when news of John Terry’s alleged affair with fellow England teammate Wayne Bridge’s ex-girlfriend. Granted it was an “ex girlfriend” but there are certain moral codes and lines of friendship that are not meant to be crossed.

As they say, if you play with fire, expect to be burnt.

As was the case with Terry, whose captaincy was stripped under no hesitation by Capello, laying down a gauntlet for all of England’s superstars that certain indecencies will not be tolerated.

However, the question arose who would take over the captaincy; Ferdinand was swiftly chosen to lead England in South Africa with Steven Gerrard taking over as vice captain.

For all of Capello’s military stance and no holds barred conduct, the events that have unfolded surrounding the change of captaincy has not made things easier for the Italian. Ferdinand was given the captaincy over an alleged cheater Terry, days after being handed a four match suspension following an off the ball incident with Hull City’s Craig Fagan.

That’s not to mention his previous offence of being suspended after failing to show for a drug test.

Perhaps England’s most focal and important centre backs are as bad as each other off the field as they are good on it. Take his football antics away, and the key question for new captain Ferdinand is whether he will be fully fit to contend with the world’s best come the summer.

So far, for club and country, Ferdinand has had an injury-hit season and has failed to get enough games under his belt and maintain a peak condition of fitness that will be required to prevent the likes of Messi, Torres, Ronaldo, and Kaka from being a threat.

But what of England’s other potential candidates? The likes of Gerrard, Lampard or perhaps Rooney?

The latter is in the form his life, arguably the deadliest striker in Europe at the moment. Although Messi's consistent terrorising of defences in La Liga would have a strong case to argue.

While Rooney’s performances have deservedly earned him praise, two of England’s other stars are suffering in their club form. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard may be experiencing contrasting fortunes for their clubs on the field, but their personal form has been disappointing.

Of course, when such footballers put themselves on such a high pedestal, be it Gerrard consistently saving Liverpool when it matters or Lampard scoring at least 20 goals a season, a poor run of games will always come under scrutiny.

Gerrard, more so than Lampard, has the burden and the weight of Liverpool on his shoulders. Time and time again, he is expected to lift his team when they are not performing. His club’s form and off the field antics has hindered his performances and his body language says the same.

This is not the sign of a vice captain of the national side.

If the event comes when Gerrard must take over the captaincy from Ferdinand, will he have the right mentality to do so? His form for England has always been questioned, as he has failed to deliver on the international stage whereas he puts in the performances at club level.

For all of Terry’s off the field actions, Gerrard has been no stranger to coming face-to-face with the law following an alleged bust up at a nightclub.

The duo of Gerrard and Lampard have failed to deliver together for England; are they worthy candidates for the captain’s armband?

Nonetheless, if there is one person in the England camp who optimises passion and a winning mentality, it is Wayne Rooney. The departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid in the summer undoubtedly left a hole not only in the Manchester United side, but also the Premier League as a competition.

If Manchester United were to score a goal in a match, be it as early as the fifth minute or the dying seconds of stoppage time, you could almost guarantee Ronaldo’s name has been on the score sheet.

Following his departure, Rooney—along with his teammates—had to step up to the mark. Make no mistake about it; no other United player has done it more so than Rooney. Now it is Rooney’s name on the score sheet more often than not, and more recently via his head.

The only concern remains that he doesn’t burn out come the World Cup, for as it stands Rooney is England’s lethal weapon if they are to win the prestigious World Cup for the first time since 1966.

Who am I to argue with Capello’s decision to appoint Ferdinand as captain and Gerrard as vice given all of his accolades as a manger? Although, as stated previously, if there is one man who demonstrates a winning mentality required to win the World Cup and illustrates how an England player should be performing on a regular basis, it is Wayne Rooney.

Having had the weight of Manchester placed on his shoulders this season, his cool, calm, and collected manner of football shows it does not faze him one bit.

He can surely handle the pressure that comes with captaining England.

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