Chelsea fans salute the 'one England captain' but John Terry must wait

The chorus went up just before the players gathered around the centre circle to observe the minute's silence.

Chelsea fans salute the 'one England captain' but John Terry must wait "One England captain, there's only one England captain," bellowed the majority in the Matthew Harding stand, the chant taken up by those in the neighbouring sections. John Terry turned and saluted. Confusion may reign when it comes to the national team but, in club colours, there is only clarity.

Terry, like the current "permanent" captain Rio Ferdinand, is awaiting a face-to-face explanation from Fabio Capello as to the manager's long-term thinking over who will captain the national team, the issue having flared so unnecessarily as a critical Euro 2012 qualifier in Wales approaches. The Chelsea captain will know he is close to being accepted on that stage again, some 13 months since he was stripped of the honour of leading out his country. As the locals sang his name, hailing their own "Captain Marvel", he must have felt as if his star was truly rising again.

This was his first appearance since suggestions that he may come out of the cold to reclaim the armband with England surfaced. He would have expected nothing less than the rousing reception he received, so worshipped is he by so many here, with his display typically powerful and assured against opponents emboldened by their near hopeless position in the tie.

The defender's form has been consistently impressive, his attitude as inspirational as ever. He has, in Capello's eyes, served his time.

Yet it seems that, technically at least, he will lead out the national team at the Millennium Stadium on 26 March as a mere stand-in. That occasion has now, in effect, become an audition for Terry to stake his claim for a long-term reappointment.

Capello and the national team's general manager, Franco Baldini, are keen to assess how the centre-half reacts to what will be a fiery occasion in Cardiff, and how his team-mates take to him. A collision with one of the Home Nations feels made for his tub-thumping aggression and inspiration.

Only once his performance has been assessed will a decision be made as to whether there is merit in reappointing the 30-year-old full-time. Capello has cited embarrassment at seeing the armband passed around to all and sundry. There are also doubts within the national set-up over Ferdinand's long-term fitness given his back and calf injuries. The Manchester United defender has been able to start only four of 13 international fixtures – he was cruelly denied an appearance at the World Cup finals by a knee ligament injury – since being appointed to succeed Terry a little over a year ago.

That does not explain the confusion this week, with Capello hinting, on the record, in a press briefing on Monday that he would be making Terry his "permanent" captain again. There have been suggestions that the misunderstanding was born of the manager misconstruing the meaning of the word "permanent". Given that his English remains patchy, that theory is hardly outlandish.

The only clarity has been offered on the pitch, where Ferdinand was absent at Old Trafford but Terry played here. He did what was asked of him against an FC Copenhagen side who came with nothing to lose and offered more threat in attack than they had at Parken last month. The centre-half flung himself into rugged challenges, relishing his meaty tackles on Martin Vingaard and his muscular tussles with Dame N'Doye. But this was not really a test. They will come in the latter stages of this competition and, in particular, on Sunday against Manchester City.

Capello will surely be present for that meeting of third and fourth, and will no doubt fret his way through a full-blooded occasion. His worst scenario is the sight of Terry limping out of that contest and from the squad the Italian is due to announce on Sunday night, prompting a return, cap in hand, to the man who led his side in Denmark last month, Frank Lampard. But for now the Italian must consider that unthinkable. For Terry, another audition awaits.

Powered by article was written by Dominic Fifield at Stamford Bridge, for The Guardian on Thursday 17th March 2011 00.03 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

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