Morality or tribalism? Why boos brothers should think again

"Fabio, are they booing me?" "No, John, they're saying 'Boo-aines', 'Boo-aines'."

(With apologies to The Simpsons, and to those who've already suffered that reference on our Twitter feed)

John Terry's first touch for England since Perroncelgate was booed even before it became clear that the touch was a mishit pass out of play.

OK, you've made your point. If you went to the game and made your opinion of John Terry's off-field behaviour clear, then fine. That's your prerogative, and Terry can hardly complain. But that's enough now.

We wouldn't dream of airbrushing The Affair (Affairbrushing?) out of history. We respect Wayne Bridge's decision to withdraw from international action. We know that on club duty Terry will get pelters up and down the country. And we certainly wouldn't invite him round for dinner with Mrs FourFourTwo.

But Terry has been punished by losing the captaincy. Fabio Capello has made his decision and wants to move on. Wayne Rooney has backed that. So has just about every England player questioned on the matter, and there have been a few.

The former captain last night with Rio's stand-in

We strongly suspect that the booing of John Terry is not a moral statement but a tribal one. Chelsea are few people's "second team". As their captain, Terry is not a widely beloved character in football.

Regarded outside the capital as a Cockney wideboy and inside it (by fans of the other dozen or so London teams) as a totem of Chelsea's nouveau-riche arriviste aristocracy, he's rarely going to win a national popularity poll.

But when Terry's playing for his country, such club divisions should be forgotten. Although it's generally worse at home games than at tournaments, club rivalries have frequently spoiled England games before, the stands stuffed with bickering spectators rather than bellowing supporters.

There is precedent for pardon. One former England centre-back was warmly welcomed back after serving a jail sentence for driving his car into a wall while four times over the alcohol limit.

And a quick glance around the squad reveals several young millionaires who have been fined for stealing a toilet seat, caught driving at 104mph in a built-up area at noon, up in court after being caught up in violent nightclub incidents, or banned on four separate occasions for automotive offences including speeding and – that old favourite – drink-driving.

Once fans start playing the moral guardian, they'll have few unsullied heroes left to cheer. And here's one more thought: how many of those who insist on booing will then moan bitterly that "The press want England to fail"?

We don't. We want the home nations to succeed. And England fans can play their part by supporting England. It's not much to ask.

Gary Parkinson is the Editor of

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