Terry takes sting out of Welsh scorn
Chelsea man's breast-beating aggression the tonic needed to dilute Millennium bile, writes Jason Burt
The cacophony close to kick-off was deafening, pumped-up, primal; within seven minutes it was deflated, the sound of bewilderment where there had so recently been bile. Flat and defeated. The hiss of 60,000 Welsh souls inside the stadium having the wind knocked out of them.
John Terry was central to it all, as he has been to everything surrounding England in the past week. His name had been catcalled more than any other England player, that armband around his left bicep a red-rag to Welsh hearts, when the teams were read out -- and then he played a leading role in his side's opening goal, executing a wonderful passage of football to exchange passes with Ashley Cole deep in the opposition half and release Ashley Young to earn a penalty.
Talk about silencing the crowd. Winless Wales against wingless England and the level of aggression was an equal mismatch.
On the eve of this contest, Terry had talked about "passion" as being one of the qualities that made him a good captain, but it's a nebulous, overvalued quality. Aggression isn't. And Terry has that in spades. How else could he have refused to countenance he made any mistakes when he had the captaincy taken away from him, and then publicly challenge his team-mates to tell him it was the wrong decision to restore him. If they dare. He has front, indeed.
There were plenty of public acknowledgments yesterday, with Terry's old Chelsea team-mate, the excellent Scott Parker, slapping him on the back after the defender had heaved into a full-on tackle with Andrew Crofts.
Then, in a break in play, Joe Hart trotted from goal to cradle his captain's head.
By then England were a second goal to the good and there was no doubt that Terry would extend his record of competitive matches to just two defeats in 19 games -- maybe a statistic that Fabio Capello had checked up on -- although few opponents will have been as supine as the Welsh.
There had been words all week. Words from Terry, about regaining that armband, and words from Wales manager Gary Speed about the project he is embarking on, his quest to "reignite" the football fire in the Principality. There was no spark from them yesterday.
Any momentum Wales wanted to gain had been extinguished and the way in which Terry had ventured into the attack was typical of England's early approach.
There had been an edge to Capello's preparations all week -- maybe that's why again he wanted to restore Terry, to shake things up -- and finally it was there on the pitch as well. This was the day when England pressed the way the manager wants them to and Parker was central to that alongside the phenomenon that is Jack Wilshere.
Few players have taken to international football as readily, as astonishingly comfortably, as the 19-year-old midfielder. Terry had said Wilshere acts like he belongs on this stage and he does.
In fairness, Terry's own performances have not dipped since he lost the captaincy -- he was as disappointing as anyone else in the World Cup -- but there is certainly a spring in his step now he has the honour again. He appears to thrive on it and that can sometimes be a negative, in what it has occasionally led him to do off the pitch, as it can be a positive on it.
This approach will only take England so far. Capello knows that, but maybe he has reasoned that with the sands running out on his time as manager he needs to go back to basics and turn to the breast-beating of Terry. Maybe with Wilshere's emergence that's unfair. Maybe England are capable of something more sophisticated and although Terry is maligned for his limitations, at times he can be a far better footballer than he is credited with being.
The Welsh -- led by the player-turned-pundit Robbie Savage -- had goaded Terry for a lack of pace, but they were not able to expose it. Craig Bellamy snapped, but only verbally, out on the wings and Terry cruised through the contest with Michael Dawson picking up the lone Welsh striker, Steve Morison. Wales managed just one touch inside the England penalty area in the first period.
Bellamy tried to barrel into one challenge with Terry in the second half but missed him. By then Terry's performance had dipped, like the rest of the England team, with a loose header and then he was quickly turned by Aaron Ramsey. But it was minimal. As was the noise inside the Millennium Stadium.
Terry, who had created so much chatter in recent days, had silenced them.
Sunday Indo Sport