John Terry: The player fans love to hate
Among the excitement of the Fourth Round of the FA Cup, the mad scramble marking the closing days of the January transfer window, and of course the headline news of Pep Guardiola joining Manchester City at the end of the season, reports that Chelsea captain John Terry would not be offered a new contract at Stamford Bridge at the end of the season were rather lost in the chatter. Sure, it was offered a certain amount of coverage by a willing media, but did it really represent the coverage the story of a bona-fide Premier League legend being cast adrift after years of sterling service deserved? Certainly, did it even register a murmur in comparison to the earth-jolting attention Steven Gerrard received for the same reasons this time last year? Quite simply, this seems like an end befitting of the enigma that is John Terry’s reputation.
It is hard to think of a more divisive figure in modern-day football, certainly in English football. Feelings towards John Terry can be more or less categorised in three distinct groups: those that adore him (the Chelsea fans), those who dislike the man but begrudging respect the player (the majority of football fans), and those who despise everything the man represents (the wider public). It would be fair to say that there has never been a more disliked England captain, with many supporters and commentators questioning whether a man with the dubious morals of Terry deserved to be the figurehead of such an esteemed and culturally important group as the England football team (the merits of which could easily be debated in detail elsewhere). However, as a player, the relative abilities and achievements of the defender cannot be readily debated.
John Terry has only ever played for Chelsea, making him a one-club man (apart from a two-month loan spell at Nottingham Forest back in 2000), which in itself is unusual in this day and age of transient footballers. Terry joined as a 14 year old, signed his first contract at 16, and made his first team debut back in October 1998 as a 17 year old. Let us remember that these were the pre-Abramovich days when Chelsea were a good, but unspectacular Premier League team, who had claimed their first major trophy in 27 years by winning the FA Cup in 1997 under Ruud Gullit, and then claimed a treble of League Cup, UEAFA Cup Winners Cup and UEFA Super Cup the following year under Gianluca Vialli. Certainly Chelsea had yet to establish themselves as the perennial title challengers that we have come to know. They were cup specialists at best.
It may have been Abramovich’s millions that effectively brought about the Chelsea dynasty of the last fifteen years or so, but certainly John Terry has been the poster boy for that period, and all-importantly, the link to the fans that can sometimes to be lost – Manchester City fans may have something to say about that. While managers have been a temporary craze at the Bridge, and world-class players have come and gone, Terry has been a constant. And even after the likes of Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Petr Cech disappeared into the sunset, Terry continued to be a stalwart of the Chelsea back-line, leading a new generation of players into a bold new world. Terry’s is the tale of the local boy made good (mostly), and he remains to Blues’ supporters the embodiment of pride and loyalty in an ever-changing game.
Of course there are have been controversies along the way, unsavoury incidents which, along with injuries, limited his number of England caps to 78, and saw Terry lose the captaincy of his country no less than twice – surely a record. To opposition fans Terry was always the first to surround the referee demanding a decision in his teams favour, the first to goad in victory and the first to protest in defeat, but certainly the Barking-born player was the embodiment of commitment, dedication to the cause and to the pursuit of victory, sometimes at whatever the cost.
The lasting image of Terry may be as the player who slipped in a Champions League Final penalty shoot-out to cost Chelsea victory, of the unswaying leader who has held aloft so many prizes. Could it be the man who was shirked so notoriously by former team mates Wayne Bridge in a pre-match handshake due to allegations surrounding his private life, of the player who has scored more Premier League goals (40) than any other defender, usually with a soaring, swooping header?
Perhaps most befitting is his Chelsea epitaph. John Terry has been involved in the winning of two-thirds of the trophies Chelsea FC have ever claimed. A two-time club player of the year, he is third in the list of all-time Chelsea appearance-makers, and one of only two players to play every minute in a Premier League title winning campaign. As the famous banner says at Stamford Bridge. ‘Captain. Leader. Legend.’ But only at the Bridge of course, which may or may not be a little harsh.
Roll of Honour:
4 x Premier League Titles
5 x FA Cups
1 x Champions League
1 x Europa League
3 x League Cups
696 x Chelsea Appearances (66 goals, including 40 in the Premier League, a record for a defender)
78 x England caps (6 goals), 34 caps as captain
Roll of Dishonour:
2001 – Fined two weeks wages for drunken behaviour
2002 – Found not guilty of affray at a nightclub, but still omitted from the England World Cup squad
2006 – Fined £100,000 by the FA for ‘improper conduct’ relating to comments about a referee.
2009 – Allegations of pocketing cash for leading ‘secret’ tours of Chelsea’s stadium.
2010 – Loses the England captaincy after being named in court papers relating to a relationship with England team mate Wayne Bridge’s girlfriend.
2011 – Accused of ‘racist’ comments after an on-field run-in with Anton Ferdinand, brother of England team mate Rio. Loses the England captaincy for a second time.
2012 – Acquitted in court over the ‘racist’ comments, but fined £220,000 by the FA. Subsequently announces his retirement from international football.
By: Steven Paget