Fabio Capello will go into England's World Cup qualification campaign with the same captain as his predecessor Steve McClaren and, virtually, the same team as favoured by Sven-Goran Eriksson.
Supporters will hope that the situation is simply a reflection that England under-performed under previous head coaches, which is undeniably true, but it perhaps also shows that, after four friendly matches and eight months in charge, Capello has drawn the conclusion that there is a dearth of emerging talent.
The Italian, in a strangely subdued press conference yesterday, which was curtailed after just 13 minutes, announced that John Terry had been chosen as England's permanent captain ahead of Rio Ferdinand, who will be his vice-captain. After rehearsing both defenders, along with Steven Gerrard, Gareth Barry and David Beckham, in the role Capello has concluded that Terry's greater "personality" and more vocal presence earned him the right.
It represents a remarkable turnaround for Terry who, after Ferdinand acquitted himself admirably in the March friendly against France, appeared to be an unlikely choice to retain the armband. However the 27-year-old's reaction has impressed Capello, particularly in the way he dealt with defeat in the Champions League final and then went on to captain – and score for – his country against the United States. There has been a growing sense over the past week that he would be chosen although Terry himself admitted he was "surprised" to be selected.
"I think that showed what kind of character I am to the manager, to bounce back like I did after that huge disappointment for myself. Maybe that persuaded him," Terry, who will lead the team in the friendly against the Czech Republic tonight, said of the events last May.
Capello concurred with that assessment although he admitted that it was only in the last couple of days that he has settled on Terry as his choice. After taking the soundings of his backroom staff, including the England Under-21 coach Stuart Pearce and assistant goalkeeping coach Ray Clemence, he has kept his decision very much to himself only revealing it when the players were told yesterday.
Terry said he was standing next to Ferdinand when the players were called together. "The first thing Rio did was turn to me and shake my hand, and that's a measure of the kind of guy he is," he said, adding that it was a privilege to be entrusted once again with leading his the squad. "I think especially Rio who's been in great form at Manchester United and what he's achieved in the last few years has been unbelievable," Terry added. "He's an example and we can all learn from that. It's a great honour for me to have those kind of players in the squad."
For Capello, tonight's match at Wembley is the final friendly before World Cup qualification begins next month with the away fixtures against Andorra and, more critically, Croatia. During June's European Championship Capello said he expected to see "big progress" from his team this evening and it is likely the line-up, barring injury and loss of form, will be entrusted when the real business begins.
Capello will not finalise his starting XI until lunchtime today but the main selection issues remain in midfield where Beckham is expected to retain his place on the right. The manager has to decide whether to select Joe Cole on the other flank, ahead of Stewart Downing, or keep Gerrard in that role which would allow him to partner Frank Lampard and Barry in the centre but he may move Gerrard inside. Further forward, and in a probable 4-4-2 formation, it would appear to be a choice of either Jermain Defoe, who has impressed with his pace and movement, to play in front of Wayne Rooney or the more physical and powerful Emile Heskey.
Whoever is chosen Capello reiterated his message that he wants England to play "like a team, with spirit and without fear. With big personality. This is very important to me. I want to see this the most. I want to see another step forward. We have to arrive at the next game, ready."
England's run under Capello
Capello so far...
6 Feb 2008 beat Switzerland 2-1
26 Mar 2008 lost to France 1-0
28 May 2008 beat USA 2-0
1 June 2008 beat Trin & Tob 3-0
...and coming up
Tonight: Czech Rep (h, Friendly)
6 Sep 2008: Andorra (a, WCQ)
10 Sep 2008: Croatia (a, WCQ)
11 Oct 2008: Kazakhstan (h, WCQ)
15 Oct 2008: Belarus (a, WCQ)