Rio Ferdinand injury boosts John Terry's claim to England captaincy

Rio Ferdinand injury boosts John Terry's claim to England captaincyThe calf injury that is threatening to rule out Rio Ferdinand for the rest of the season may have killed off his chances of regaining the England captaincy.

John Terry will not only take over the armband for the Euro 2012 qualifier with Wales on 23 March but it is now understood he will now keep it until the end of the season. The Chelsea centre-half will lead the side in Cardiff and for the friendly with Ghana as well as the European Championship qualifier against Switzerland in June, giving him the opportunity to show that he should then be reinstated in the role on a permanent basis.

Fabio Capello had been keen to have Terry as the leader of the side in the Millennium Stadium because the England manager expects the match with Wales to be intense. Steven Gerrard, who had groin surgery last week, will be unavailable for that game and the friendly with Ghana, but the Liverpool midfielder's suitability to captain the national side could have been questioned in any case. He led England through the forlorn World Cup campaign last summer, which Ferdinand missed through injury. Doubts over the Manchester United player's fitness in the long term also enhance the candidacy of Terry. Ferdinand has made 20 appearances for his club this season, whereas Terry has a total of 35 with Chelsea. Terry had the captaincy taken from him last year because of a personal issue, but England now need his impact once more as the leader of the national team.

The latest prognosis for Ferdinand depicts an increasingly bleak outlook for a player who has managed only 28 league appearances since March 2009 and was initially expected to be out for only two weeks with his current injury.

"It's just not responding," United's manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, said. "Sometimes [calf] injuries can be troublesome. We experienced this with Bryan Robson in 1990. He was out for four months with a calf injury. Rio has been out for six weeks now; it's going on two months. We are not looking short-term. He's hardly training yet and it looks to me like we'll be lucky to get him back fit for some part of the season."

Ferguson reported it was not related to the back issues that have badly affected Ferdinand over the last few years, but the player's inability to put together a long sequence of games is becoming an increasing concern at Old Trafford.

"Gary Neville suffered with injuries in his 30s and made comebacks time and time again but eventually he realised it was too much and retired," Ferguson said. "He was 36 and had had a great career. Rio's 32 and has plenty of years ahead. He's had a few injuries over the last few years, which I'm sure is a concern for him because he's still capable of getting back and playing at the top level. He needs to take the example of Gary Neville, and I'm sure he sees that.

"He's desperate to get back and he will get back, but obviously we're just unlucky that this calf injury has lasted too long."

United may have only four fit defenders – Chris Smalling, Wes Brown, Patrice Evra and Fábio da Silva – for the visit of Bolton Wanderers on Saturday and no specialist right-back. Ferguson said Nemanja Vidic, with his own calf problem, would not play at the weekend, and John O'Shea could miss five weeks and Rafael da Silva three weeks with hamstring injuries.

"It's been a bad spell for us," Ferguson said. "Only a few weeks ago we had every defender fit and it was great, but it's all fallen apart in the last week or so."

The United manager was clearly annoyed about the Football Association's decision to ban him from the touchline for five matches because of his criticism of the referee, Martin Atkinson, after a 2-1 defeat at Chelsea. "It was disappointing," he said. "It's the only industry you can't tell the truth in, you know."

Yet Ferguson has decided not to appeal against the ban, which will begin straight away, meaning he will be back in the dug-out for the potential title-decider against Arsenal at the Emirates on 1 May.

Powered by article was written by Kevin McCarra and Daniel Taylor, for The Guardian on Thursday 17th March 2011 22.29 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

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