As I write this, the future of Chelsea and former England captain John Terry remains uncertain. With it seeming in recent weeks that his Stamford Bridge exit was all but confirmed, reports today suggest he is now weighing up a one-year extension to his contract against a lucrative £20 million offer from China.
Whatever the outcome, what’s clear is that the potential end to Terry’s trophy laden but controversial Chelsea career has been as messy as his previous misdemeanours. It all began when Terry took the unusual decision to confirm his apparent exit ahead of any statement from the club, speaking to the press in the immediate aftermath of a 5-1 win over MK Dons in the FA Cup in January of this year;
“It’s my last run in the FA Cup so I want to make it a good one,” said Terry after the game. “It’s a big season for me and I want to push on, not just in this competition but in the Premier League as well. I knew before the Arsenal game [that my contract was not to be renewed] so mentally I’ve kind of accepted it. We just have to move on. The club said that when the new manager comes in [during the summer], things might change. I needed to know now like I have done every January, and sometimes it takes a couple of months to get done. Unfortunately it was a no [from the club]. It’s not going to be a fairytale ending, I’m not going to retire at Chelsea, it’s going to be elsewhere.”
This was the first evidence that things were about to get really fraught between club and captain. In a season where all was far from rosy in West London, problems were already evident, with rumours about that Terry and then-manager Jose Mourinho were having an increasingly difficult relationship, all within the context of the defending champions shockingly battling to stay out of the relegation fight for much of the first part of the season.
Terry’s decision to out his own issues with those in the higher reaches of the club by somewhat prematurely declaring his time there up can suggest one of two things; either Terry was making a seriously ham-fisted attempt to force the club’s hand into making him an offer he felt he deserved, or relations between him and senior board members and coaching staff members had deteriorated to such a level that he wanted to take any decision on his future away from them entirely. Either way, the manner in which it was done left many confused and, once again, questioning both Terry’s methods and motives.
Be it on the pitch or off, Terry has courted controversy in a way many others of his footballing generation have not. His biggest on-the-field disgrace came in 2011 when he received a four-match ban and a £220,000 fine from the FA for racially abusing then-QPR defender Anton Ferdinand. Though found not guilty in a court of law, the FA’s actions did not come alone, with Terry also being stripped of his England captaincy in a move he said he found ‘disappointing’.
The problems around racial discrimination in sport are well known and, in isolation, are enough to leave many with a bitter taste in their mouths with regard to Terry but, as if to compound the feeling of negativity towards the London-native, many found the punishment and it’s apparent lack of severity to be almost as insulting as the language he was found guilty of using. Joey Barton, who received an enormous and, at the time, unprecedented 12-match ban and £75,000 fine for violent conduct in a match between QPR and Man City in the same season, tweeted;
Such opinions were widely expressed in the footballing world and, with Terry taking a full year before issuing any kind of apology for the incident, it’s understandable that any wells of sympathy were indeed running dry by this point.
Off the pitch, JT has done little throughout his career to suggest he’s anymore of a paragon of virtue than he is on it. There’s the incident at Heathrow airport in September 2001 where Terry, in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks, was fined by his club for allegedly mocking American tourists in relation to the worst terrorist event to occur in the Western world in the last 20 years. There’s the £80 fine he received in 2008 for parking his Bentley in a disabled parking space. And grouped into the ‘accused but never found guilty’ incidents include a later-dropped charge of assault and affray for a fracas involving a nightclub bouncer, also in 2008 and a secret tour he gave an undercover reporter in 2009, allegedly in return for financial reimbursement.
This portfolio of less-than-savoury transgressions, combined with the much-covered alleged affair the player had with the partner of former team mate Wayne Bridge, only serve to create an image of a man it’s hard to defend or paint in a favourable light. The cherry on the cake, perhaps, and the action that prompts many to make a mockery of a man who’s footballing achievement suggest he doesn’t really deserve it, was his decision to lift the Champions League trophy in full kit in 2012, despite being suspended for the final, in which the London club defeated German giants FC Bayern Munich in their own back yard via penalty-shootout after a 1-1 draw during normal time. Many a meme, hashtag and social media trend was started. Even former team-mate Robert Huth couldn’t help taking a little dig, stating he’d be taking similar action when Leicester City lifted the Premier League trophy last week, despite the German being in the middle of a 3-match-ban that prevented him playing on trophy day;
What makes the debacle that has been the messy last few months in an all-together poor season for Terry so sad is that, when all is said and done, he had the makings of becoming one of the most memorable footballers of his generation. One of the last true one club men in a time when the breed seems to be dying out (apart from a short loan spell at Nottingham Forrest in his early days), he has a trophy cabinet and some on the field achievements that indicate he should be hailed as a great for years to come. Bobby Moore, Franz Beckenbauer, Billy McNeill – there’s no doubt that Terry has had the physical and footballing ability to be considered in that category and yet, because of past events that really could and should have been avoided, it’s unlikely he’ll be named by anyone in such discussions who doesn’t want laughed out of the pub.
A red card in a 3-2 defeat to Sunderland which saw him kiss goodbye to what could be his last two matches for the Blues mean he could end on a note that strikes the same minor chord that has provided the backing track from much of his career. John Terry – proof that success and a full trophy room does not a legend make.