(Reuters) - Fabio Capello’s roller-coaster ride as England football coach could come to a screeching halt this week for his role in another controversy surrounding his now deposed team captain John Terry.
England’s preparations for the World Cup in South Africa were overshadowed by a dispute surrounding Terry two years ago and their build-up for this year’s European Championship in Poland and Ukraine could be disrupted to an even greater degree if Capello loses his job.
The 65-year-old Italian, who has coached England for the last four years, is due to meet the FA Board later this week and his comments to the Italian TV channel RAI will be top of the agenda.
Capello let it be known on Sunday that he disagreed with the decision taken by the Football Association’s board to strip Terry of the England captaincy while he awaits trial for alleged racial abuse of Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand during a Premier League match last October.
The FA has not said Terry cannot play in the tournament if he is picked. His trial is set for July 9, eight days after it ends and he is pleading not guilty.
But rather than keeping his own counsel, Capello told RAI channel in a live interview from London on Sunday that he “absolutely” did not agree with the decision taken by FA chairman David Bernstein and his board.
Capello said that Terry should not have been dealt with by the FA now, reiterating his earlier stance that the 31-year-old Chelsea skipper was, as far as he was concerned, innocent until proven guilty of the charge.
Capello, who is leaving the job after the Euros in any case, has always appeared to have a good working relationship with Bernstein, especially after the FA continued to back him despite public and media calls for his departure following England’s poor showing in South Africa.
They barely scraped out of their group, winning only one of three games, and were eliminated in the second round by Germany following a 4-1 defeat, their worst ever loss in the finals.
Their fortunes have improved since and they qualified for the European finals with ease, winning five and drawing three of their eight qualifiers.
Capello said he had discussed the Terry situation with Bernstein before the FA made its decision, and when asked by RAI if it was right that Terry lost the armband he replied: “Absolutely not.
“I talked to the chairman. I said that in my opinion a person cannot be sanctioned until it is official. It will be for the court to decide, the law, not the sports court but the civil law.
“They will say whether John Terry has committed the offence of which he is accused. I maintain, and I maintained, its right that John Terry was able to keep the armband.
“The fact that the board decided on this, is something that is within their competence when dealing with ethics.”
Capello’s reported remarks typically caused a media storm in England and ignited the old dispute when Terry was first stripped of the captaincy following an alleged relationship with the ex-girlfriend of his former Chelsea team mate Wayne Bridge.
Rio Ferdinand, Anton’s older brother and Terry’s long-time partner in the centre of England’s defence, took over as captain, but was then replaced by Steven Gerrard after being injured just before the World Cup began.
Commentators are now saying Terry should never have been re-instated as captain by Capello last year and whoever is now named as captain will know he is only second choice.
As if that was not enough to worry about, David Davies, a former executive director of the FA, told the BBC on Monday that Capello could have breached his employment terms by showing disloyalty to the FA.
“It is being taken very seriously by the FA because it may be that Fabio Capello has breached his contract. You have to ask what his motive is,” Davies said.
“You have to suspect he wants to prevent John Terry retiring as a player before Euro 2012, but there are wider issues. You could have what some of the media are calling a morality circus while England are trying to win the second major tournament in football.”
All this is strikingly familiar to what occurred in 2010 when Capello decided to strip Terry of the captaincy because he could not be a role model, leader and ambassador for England and the FA following the extra-marital allegations.
One former England captain, Alan Shearer, said he thought the FA had actually done Capello a favour by making the decision for him.
“I think the FA have been strong and decisive,” Shearer told the BBC.
“They were never going to please everybody. I have been lucky enough to be the England captain leading up to a major tournament and I know the demands of an England captain.
“It will be very very difficult for John to continue with his duties as captain, to help with the FA, on their commercial side, with the campaigns that they have. They have made the right decision.
“I think it might actually help Fabio Capello because of his relationship with John Terry. The decision has been taken away from him. If he stays in the squad, it could have caused a problem between him and the manager, so I think it has helped Capello.”
The FA has refused to comment further on the matter but everyone else will be in the days ahead.
Editing by Ed Osmond