English player centre of national controversy

England captain John Terry is at the centre of a team scandal. (REUTERS/David Moir)

England captain John Terry is at the centre of a team scandal. (REUTERS/David Moir)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:48 PM ET

Fleet Street tabloid editors must drool whenever the World Cup approaches.

There is, after all, no juicier fodder for splashy headline writers than the English national team, especially in the months leading up to the tournament.

You want sex, drugs and rock and roll? You got it!

Indeed, there has been no shortage of meaty storylines surrounding Fabio Capello’s talented squad as it bids to make a run for its second World Cup crown, the only other coming in 1966.

And no story has been more sensational, from a tabloid journalist’s point of view, than l’affaire John Terry.

Or should that be John Terry’s affair?

Any way you look at it, it caused tongues to wag across the country.

When the news broke earlier this year that Terry had been regularly sleeping with French model Vanessa Perroncel while she allegedly was still seeing Wayne Bridge, his former teammate with Chelsea,

Capello acted quickly, stripping Terry of the England captaincy.

Capello was sending a message: No one person comes ahead of the team. And that goes double for a so-called team leader who had apparently been stabbing a teammate in the back.

The issue slowly seemed to be fading away, thanks in part to impressive victories over Mexico and Japan in a couple of pre-World Cup friendlies.

But then British publication The Mail on Sunday added a new twist to the sordid affair, reporting that Perroncel had had an abortion within months of the start of her affair with Terry.

Cue the controversy. Again.

An immediate scan of the web revealed many English fans were outraged at this latest development, feeling Terry’s soap-opera, between-the-sheets escapades would rip the team from within and destroy England’s once optimistic odds at winning the title.

Let’s not panic here, folks. Take a deep breath.

This is not the first time a top team has found itself knee-deep in scandal heading into a World Cup. And it won’t be the last.

The Italians, for example, have turned such controversies into a national pastime.

Prior to Germany 2006, Italian club teams were accused of trying to influence the scheduling of referees to Serie A games. Juventus, Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio were subsequently punished.

No matter. Italy went on to win the World Cup.

Prior to the 1982 tournament, Italy’s Paolo Rossi was convicted of taking a bribe to fix matches. No matter. He would still lead Italy to the title that year.

The bottom line: England can not — and should not — use Terry’s bedroom adventures as an excuse.

Sure, Terry’s act brings to the English squad the type of global attention it would rather avoid. But should England fall short of expectations in South Africa, solely blaming Terry for any early exit would be wrong and misguided.

This is an English team that has the talent to be considered one of the tournament favourites, according to Germany manager Joachim Low. Led by world class players such as Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, it is easy to see why.

Unfortunately, history shows that England has been its own worst enemy during its 44-year World Cup title drought.

Four years ago in Germany, Lampard was awful, suddenly finding himself with an inability to hit the net. It was an ailment that has plagued England too many times — star players who perform better for their Premier League teams than they do for the national squad.

English players also must be far more disciplined on the big stage that is the World Cup.

In 2006 England was eliminated by Portugal after Rooney was red carded. In 1998, David Beckham’s red card left England a man short in an eventual loss to Argentina that ended their tournament.

If England doesn’t shoot itself in the foot again, Capello's team could be poised for a deep run.


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