Manager damned if he does, damned if he doesn't
We know for sure England will have a new manager for Euro 2012. What we don't know is if he will select John Terry or opt to leave the former captain behind.
What to do with the Chelsea veteran will be one of the first big decisions of the brave man taking over the hot seat. As proved this week, Terry (pictured) is a polarising figure who played no small part in the rocky nature of Fabio Capello's four years in charge.
Taking Terry to Poland and Ukraine is almost to certain to destabilise the camp. But leaving him behind will lessen defensive options while robbing the squad of one of its most experienced players.
Stripping Terry, 31, of the captaincy takes away only half of the problem as he awaits a criminal trial on July 9 for racism charges. He is such a larger-than-life character that his not wearing the skipper's armband will do little to lessen the impact of his mere presence at the tournament.
'If Terry is there, the black players will accept it and go about their business in the most professional manner possible,' a black former England international who represented England at a World Cup in the 1990s, said. 'But the new manager will know there could be whispers around the squad and cliques forming just like they did at South Africa 2010, affecting overall morale and performance.'
Harry Redknapp is everyone's choice as the replacement. He would look to follow the example of another Cockney, Terry Venables, who inspired England to the semi-finals of the 1996 European Championship on home soil.
But where does the younger Londoner fit in, with this simple, patriotic plan of whipping up a tremendous team spirit? Terry has the same potential to either unite or divide the squad.
And as promising as they are, emerging talents such as Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill may not be ready to shoulder the defensive responsibilities at international level on their own.
'Even into his 30s and with reduced pace, a fit John Terry remains his country's best centre back,' a former England midfielder said. 'The best central defensive partnership is still John Terry alongside Rio Ferdinand. The only problem is that Rio is Anton's brother.'
The consensus is that England's new manager cannot risk selecting both Ferdinand and Terry in their 23-man squad because of the potential for trouble. Only the injury withdrawal of Terry from the Chelsea-Manchester United game on February 5 avoided a handshake snub similar to the one delivered to Terry by then-Manchester City defender Wayne Bridge two years earlier.
England's pre-tournament scenario replay saw Terry relieved of the captaincy on February 3, four months before Euro 2012. In 2010, he lost it on February 5 after revelations about his private life involving the former partner of his then national teammate, Bridge.
The only difference is that Capello was able to ride out the storm of 2010 as he removed the arm band from Terry, instead of having the FA intervene.
So who should skipper England under their new boss with Ferdinand announcing he no longer wants the job? While Tottenham workhorse Scott Parker could provide a fresh option, Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard remains hot favourite.
The ex-England midfielder said: 'In international football, it is often like having 11 leaders with many accomplished players on the pitch so awarding the captaincy wouldn't be such a big deal if it wasn't for the off-field duties.'
Even though the assumption of innocence until the July trial could earn him a place in the 23-man squad, Terry would still need to walk on eggshells if called up.
'Because legal proceedings are hanging over the whole affair, he has to be very careful about what he says to his teammates,' the ex-England midfielder said. 'He can't address the racism subject in a clear-the-air kind of way, even hinting at an error of judgment because those comments could come back to haunt him in the court room.'
Conversely, it could be awkward for Chelsea's black players in the England squad.
'The likes of Ashley Cole and Daniel Sturridge will be on edge if Terry goes to the Euros,' the black ex-England international said. 'They realise that whatever they do in the national set-up involving him could affect their Chelsea futures because of the power that JT holds at Stamford Bridge.'
When it comes to the behind-the-scenes dramas that always seem to unfold before England play in a major competition, truth is indeed stranger than fiction.
As for the decision to select Terry, the new manager could be damned if he does, damned if he doesn't.