Unbeaten England end year on high

Terry insists he will never quit captaincy after returning to lead experimental side to win that hints at bright future


DEFIANT skipper John Terry declared he would never relinquish the captaincy after leading England to a first victory over Sweden for 43 years on a triumphant return to the side.

A first-half own goal from Daniel Majstorovic handed Fabio Capello’s men a second win in four days, following Saturday’s defeat of Spain, in front of the smallest Wembley crowd for an England match since 1998.

Capello rested Terry at the weekend and came under pressure to drop him while he is under police investigation over claims, which he categorically refutes, that he racially abused QPR’s Anton Ferdinand. But the Chelsea defender (below) returned to the team to help England complete an unbeaten 2011, and insisted he had never considered handing back the armband – and never would.

“No chance. I would never step down,” he said. “It is something I dreamed of as a boy. When I was four or five years old I used to watch England games and it’s something I dreamed of being.

“I worked very hard to get here. I’m very passionate, very confident being England captain and very proud to be also.”

Liverpool winger Stewart Downing, rookie Tottenham full-back Kyle Walker and young Everton midfielder Jack Rodwell were the standout performers in an experimental England side that deserved to win by a greater margin.

Capello singled out Rodwell, Manchester United youngster Phil Jones and Arsenal’s Theo Walcott for praise as he reflected on a growing array of options ahead of next summer’s European Championships.

“During these games, I’m looking for something new, and I found it,” said the Italian. “These three players are really good technically, really good physically, and all three are fast. That is important in modern football.

“It was important to see Jones, Walcott, Rodwell, to play against a team which is really organised on the pitch and difficult to play against. The answer I received from the performance is really important for me.”

Only Hart, Jones and Walcott survived from the team Capello sent out against Spain and, although the Arsenal winger caused a few skirmishes early on, the wholesale changes made for a plodding start riddled with tentative sideways passing.

So it came as a shock when England took the lead in the 23rd minute, Downing crossing from the edge of the area for Barry, whose glancing header clipped his marker, Celtic defender Majstorovic, and sailed past goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson.

Unlike against Spain, England quickly threatened to increase their lead, first through Rodwell, who adjusted his footing well to meet a cross from Everton colleague Baines on the volley, only for the goal-bound effort to ricochet wide.

Moments later Jones went closer, seizing on a loose ball on half-way, bursting through the back four but poking agonisingly wide when faced with Isaksson.

Rodwell was guiltier seconds before half-time when Downing clipped a gift of a cross and he headed wide of the open goal. There was little respite for the Swedish defence when the match re-started, Downing repeatedly offering tempting crosses for Zamora. One the Fulham striker nodded to Rodwell, whose effort was charged down, and another he met, only to see his shot blocked.

Downing could not be blamed for taking matters into his own hands, but his low shot did not match his dribbling and Isaksson clutched it without fuss. England’s ambition waned as full-time neared, but there was still time for James Milner to hang a cross to the far post where fellow substitute Darren Bent was arriving, but Sebastian Larsson dramatically headed clear.