John Terry always wins his battles. Even the ones he loses. Never one to shy away from his demons, England’s Bravest John Terry had come to resemble a lone warrior against a system that seemed determined to destroy him. The ethics (or lack of it) behind his position notwithstanding, John Terry’s supporters will certainly see in him, a man more sinned against than sinning.
There are strong parallels between Lance Armstrong’s case and John Terry’s. Both men vilified for a crime they were never technically found guilty of, finally breaking their swords over their knees in a defiant act of exasperation (or admission of guilt, if you ask their detractors). Terry’s burden had clearly become too much to bear, surprisingly for a man who seemed to relish silencing his critics in the aftermath of every new crisis that befell his career.
Stripped of his England captaincy after being accused and publicly embarrassed in the wake of accusations that he bedded Vanessa Perroncel, former teammate’s Wayne Bridge’s ex-girlfriend, the writing seemed to be on the wall for Chelsea’s number 26. But John Terry has made a career of clawing his way back from the dead.
The allegations of drunken and disrespectful behavior in front of American travelers in a Heathrow airport hotel, may have rocked the boat early on and raised questions about his temperament. But John Terry would grow and mature to be a leader of men on the football field. Terry is so central to Chelsea’s fortunes that even a questionable decision to accept money for a secret tour of Stamford Bridge did little to shake the aura around him at the club level.
That goodwill, however, wasn’t always forthcoming on the international front. John Terry has the ignominious distinction of being stripped of his captaincy twice – the second time being a mortal blow he never really shook off. John Terry’s willingness to step up and assert himself is nothing out of the ordinary at Chelsea, but doing so at the helm of the national team when he led a ‘player power’ movement against Capello turned many in the media against him.
Fabio Capello seems not to have taken it as a personal slight, but sports pundits around the world bayed for his blood. John Terry was accused, among other things, of staging a coup and putting his ego over the team’s fortunes. Conveniently swept under the carpet was Chelsea’s player power ‘clear the air’ meeting that Terry organized during the Carlo Ancelotti tenure. It transformed Chelsea’s flagging fortunes into a successful run to the top of the Premiership, with a string of victories that would not have been possible otherwise.
John Terry’s man management skills are the stuff of legend. This is a man who rallies the team around a flag, around a cause and around a personality larger than life – his. Whatever his disagreements with Capello, Ancelotti, Villas-Boas and now Roy Hodgson, John Terry has always been rewarded by their trust and unconditional backing. Capello stuck his neck out, losing his job in the process for John Terry. What kind of man commands this kind of fanatical support amongst the best footballing brains in the coaching arena? At some level, these managers have realized John Terry was far from being a liability, but instead was the sharpest tool in the shed. There was not going to be an England triumph, with John Terry on the periphery.
Which is why of all his scandals, John Terry’s brush with Anton Ferdinand will rankle him the most. In charge of a multi-racial team, both at Chelsea and in the England national team, John Terry’s alleged racist outburst has been the most loaded of allegations against him. It is to Ashley Cole’s credit that he emerged as John Terry’s principal backer, but the damage was done. Even though he was cleared off the allegations, some say on a technicality, Terry would never truly be able to live it down as the FA promised to take its own look at the matters.
They are likely to find him guilty, and hand out the standard four match ban. Even if they don’t, John Terry is unlikely to see it as a victory of any kind. Redemption perhaps, but hardly something worth crowing about. So it’s understandable Terry has decided to blunt the outcome of the hearing with an announcement of his own.
For fans of Chelsea, this announcement must raise more questions than answers. Will this prolong his career at a club that adores him as their ‘Captain. Leader. Legend’? Does this undercut his authority at the club, and is the universal loyalty he commands in the squad at risk in light of an FA ban? Are John Terry’s best years behind him, and more frighteningly, is the day Terry hangs up his Chelsea boots not far away?
John Terry is a man who disdains being a victim of circumstance. This is a man who achieved superhuman status, if only for a while, by hurling himself horizontal to the ground in a bid to stop a shot on goal, with his head. Love him or hate him, Terry’s decision to act now will leave England poorer in defense, in heart and in spirit.
His action was sudden, decisive, powerful and left everyone reeling. We shouldn’t have expected anything lesser from the man.