By Wayne Veysey
The England captaincy debate is almost as divisive as the eternal club versus country conundrum that rears its head every time the latest round of international friendlies begin.
For some, the armband is as sacrosanct as the monarchy and Sunday roasts. For others, it is a tedious turn-off that has as much relevance to the well-being of the national team as the colour of the jersey that the players are wearing.
Stuart Pearce’s decision to make Scott Parker captain for the Holland friendly on Wednesday is utterly meaningless in many ways.
Pearce is a caretaker manager who could be preparing for his first and last pre-match England team talk before kick-off at Wembley.
Steven Gerrard, who was widely regarded as the favourite to become John Terry’s permanent successor, might not even figure against the Dutch, especially after 120 gruelling minutes in the League Cup final on Sunday.
Yet Pearce also claimed in his pre-match press conference on Tuesday that he had known who his captain would be for the Holland match a few weeks ago.
As a zealous patriot who sniffily turned his nose up at the notion that it is the glamour of the Champions League, rather than England duty, that represents the mecca for the modern English player, he will have considered the identity of his skipper – even for one inconsequential game – to be a significant one.
Should Gerrard and, to a lesser extent, Joe Hart feel snubbed or insulted at the announcement?
Maybe, but we are not in full possession of the facts at the moment. Despite claiming publicly he wanted the captaincy following Capello's exit, the Liverpool skipper could have privately indicated to the England hierarchy that he did not fancy another summer tournament with the burden of the captaincy weighing down his performances.
There might have also been some pressure on Pearce from above to select a captain who would not embarrass the FA in the manner than John Terry did on the two occasions that led to him losing the armband.
Furthermore, Pearce’s plan might have always been to recall Gerrard to the squad to recognise his importance to the set-up but give him a rest when the real action started.
Nevertheless, congratulations must go to Parker. He is an admirable professional whose performances as a midfield anchorman have steadily improved the more experience he has gained to the point where he is playing the best football of his career.
While the rashness of his tackling in the Tottenham defeat to Arsenal last weekend should not be ignored, the 31-year-old has been even more effective for Spurs this season than when he led West Ham’s unsuccessfull battle to stay in the Premier League almost single-handedly 12 months ago.
He has also done everything asked of him since establishing himself in the England starting X1 with an excellent display in the victory over Wales in Cardiff 12 months ago.
As the best holding midfielder with an English passport, Parker deserves to be in the team on merit. As a player who missed so much football in his mid-20s while losing the fight to establish himself at Chelsea under Jose Mourinho, he is also less prone than most to breaking down.
Even Parker’s family and closest friends would recognise that Gerrard remains a more capable and explosive footballer with a stronger track record.
Yet Parker makes sense. A sound choice for unique circumstances. And these certainly are.