No one pretends that John Terry's protest was one long slip of the tongue. Fabio Capello has no doubt restored order and, for the moment, made the squad look submissive again, but that is a very small part of the manager's work. The greater task is to send out a line-up that approaches the closing group game against Slovenia with passion rather than a morose sense of duty.

If Capello has one advantage it should lie in an urgency among the players that runs deeper than any grudging submission to his authority. Many of the better-regarded figures cannot be sure that they will ever again attend this tournament as footballers. If they get accreditation in the future it will be in the role of coach or pundit.

Of the team selected for the goalless draw with Algeria, David James, Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Emile Heskey have already reached 30th birthdays. The replacement for the suspended Carragher is to be the 31-year-old Matthew Upson. A habitual and so far unproductive debate over youth development must be resumed soon, but the greybeards can still do something valuable in Port Elizabeth.

A potent showing from them would at least allow discussion about the strategies for the decades ahead to proceed without the backdrop being one of recrimination. There are several characters who must crave to be remembered warmly for their contribution at a World Cup. This competition should not bring on stage fright in them either.

Joe Cole is presently being treated as an invigorating new force although Capello is hardly inclined to take the advice of pundits who presume to pick his team for him. Nonetheless, turning to the midfielder, if only as a substitute, cannot conceivably be termed a radical measure.

Cole, who will be 29 in November, had an outing at the tournament as long ago as 2002 when he was brought on for David Beckham in the draw with Sweden. He then started each of England's matches at the next World Cup, even if Sven-Goran Eriksson made it his practice to replace him before the final whistle in all but one case.

Cole is in fashion for the time being and should revel in the intrigue over whether he will eventually switch to Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur or some other appealing workplace now that he has departed Chelsea as a free agent.

The player ought to be stimulated by the fact that he is coveted all over again. Cole was a child prodigy and like so many in that category had difficulty as an adult in converting virtuosity into impact. As he slips into the closing years of his period in the top-flight it ought to strike him that he is in full command of his own future just as his reputation is climbing.

It is dangerous to lobby Capello because he is likely to bridle at the presumptuous concept of public opinion having any impact on him whatsoever, but his choices are strictly limited.

The manager rightly seeks pace, yet Theo Walcott was jettisoned because the acceleration was too often an end in itself. The swift Aaron Lennon is in danger of incurring the same unfavourable reviews.

No matter the precise composition of the line-up against Slovenia, guile is likely to be more relevant than raw speed. There have already been hints of that and Gerrard looks far better at the World Cup than he did for Liverpool in the Premier League season. At 30, his dynamism is not so constant, but the linking with Heskey was exquisite when he sent England into the lead against the USA.

The 32-year-old Heskey is subject to intermittent derision and some envisage him being sidelined so that Wayne Rooney is free to take up the post of lone striker that he has filled so productively for Manchester United.

However, Capello has been in the habit of standing by his conclusions and Heskey's traits have, until now, been integral to the scheme irrespective of both the common scorn for the player and his demotion to the bench at Aston Villa.

Heskey is one of the group with a last invitation to do something wholly creditable, even if it is simply as a self-sacrificing attacker who ensures that gaps open up elsewhere for his team-mates. There is melodrama in the circumstances of others who are not expected to be on the field at any future World Cup.

Lampard, 32, was a novice of sorts as he sampled the tournament in 2006, yet he still took the first penalty in the shoot-out that settled the quarter-final with Portugal. It was saved by Ricardo and while that proved not to be a turning point in England's loss, the thought of it can only be galling.

Several of Capello's players are dragging ugly history behind them, but regardless of age they arrived in South Africa still hoping to rewrite CVs undermined by earlier ventures in the competition. A modest yet telling start to the project will have been made if the old-timers bring about the defeat of Slovenia.

This is not a news report and may contain views expressed by the author which are not supported by GNM.