Bad Journalism, Poor Assumptions and the England Football Captaincy

First published on my Blog ‘Discussing the World of Sport’ in June 2012, I thought that I’d share this piece with you. To give some context to this post, Stuart Pearce (the then England U21 football coach) was asked to select a squad and team for a friendly against the Netherlands in February, following the resignation of Fabio Capello (now the coach of the Russian Federation) and before the Football Association appointed Roy Hodgson as the full-time England Manager. His decision to select Scott Parker, then of Tottenham and now of Fulham, as his captain caused consternation in my house and raised a few eyebrows in the media. This blog was the result! Not that I feel the need to say ‘I told you so’, but I did. So there!

I feel compelled, having read a number of articles recently about the decision by Stuart Pearce to select Scott Parker as his captain, to comment in this blog. As recently as this evening (, BBC Sport’s Chief Football Writer has suggested that Steven Gerrard was over-looked for the captaincy when England played the Netherlands in February of this year. I disagree completely. I would contend that Pearce, one of the proudest and most patriotic of former England internationals, selected Parker because the player had a good chance of completing 90 minutes and the caretaker manager didn’t want to create an armband ‘merry-go-round’ that had become prevalent in previous England international friendlies.

Gerrard had just come back from injury, had played 120 minutes against Cardiff at Wembley that weekend (in the Carling Cup Final) and Pearce knew that the chances of the player completing 90 minutes was somewhere between slim and none. Indeed, given Gerrard’s recent injury record, it would have been surprising for the player to have been given more than 45 minutes anyway (he actually managed 33 minutes before being replaced by Chelsea’s Daniel Sturridge).

In my opinion, the decision wasn’t based on form or leadership qualities. I have no doubt that Parker possesses excellent leadership skills and, given his form at the time, was a ‘shoe in’ to play against the Dutch in the centre of midfield but to suggest that he was a better candidate to captain the national side is pure silliness.

Steven Gerrard is, as he has demonstrated unequivocally in the past two weeks, the most gifted midfielder of his generation. Granted, his performances are arguably a shadow of his lung-busting performances for Liverpool (who will ever forget his almost single-handed rejuvenation of his side in the 2005 Champions League Final against AC Milan), but to suggest that Roy Hodgson would consider any other member of his squad to be captain? Not in my lifetime!


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