Chelsea: John Terry's Pride Is England's Undoing

'Captain, Leader, Legend' reads the Stamford Bridge banner tribute to John Terry. 'Careless, Culpable, Letdown' is more applicable to his international career however.
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'Captain, Leader, Legend' reads the Stamford Bridge banner tribute to John Terry. 'Careless, Culpable, Letdown' is more applicable to his international career however.

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Chelsea: John Terry's Pride Is England's Undoing

Stripped of the England captaincy for the second time, John Terry's presence remains a problem that festers for Fabio Capello and England.

On Thursday Punxsutawney Phil confirmed that, after seeing his shadow as he emerged from his lair, there would be six more weeks of winter. For John Terry, it really is Groundhog Day and the forecast is bitter.

Two years ago the Chelsea Captain was summoned to Wembley by Fabio Capello to be informed that he had lost the England captaincy after allegations he had an affair with the girlfriend of sometime footballer Wayne Bridge. The meeting lasted 10 minutes in what were the pre-World Cup days when the Italian’s role was as secure as Javier Zanetti’s hair.

Now, on the cusp of another major tournament, things are similar amidst drastic circumstances. Capello must be paying a thousand grazies to Terry for taking the heat off of him. The South Africa shenanigans saw an outpouring of abuse that was borderline xenophobic because England had lost against a better side in Bloemfontein, albeit haplessly.

With the Crown Prosecution Service now inducing the FA and Capello with an almighty headache by delaying Terry’s hearing on the charge of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand until July, whatever decision was made, it was Catch-22.

David Bernstein’s announcement that Terry has been stripped – having been reinstated as captain last year – is actually rather futile. The British mentality at club and country level overstates the importance of the captain, and it is a chief example of why England are perennial underachievers.

Spain and Germany, international football’s two best sides, have a goalkeeper and a left-back as their captains. Iker Casillas and Philipp Lahm are hardly rowdy characters because they prefer to concentrate on their ability. Terry meanwhile, is a brazen bulldog. He wants to serve in the armed forces (‘I would love to put (my) life on the line for the country’), is a defender, wins headers and is boisterous.

He is also slow and was powerless to stop Mesut Özil speeding past him at the last World Cup. And this season has arguably been the worst of his career as even Theo Walcott bamboozled him. Twice.

In South Africa, he was vengefully mutinous as he subordinated Capello and interim captain Steven Gerrard by calling for Joe Cole to start and complaining about how intense the camp was. He got one beer out of it.

The CPS and Chelsea deserve the bulk of the flak for this latest dilemma.

Rio Ferdinand is far from certified of a squad berth for the European Championship, but with Joleon Lescott, Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka’s international class dubious, should be selected. Which is a problem since his brother is the alleged victim in Terry’s case. Neither sibling has accepted pacifying calls from the Chelsea man, and Jason Roberts’ presumption that the dressing room could be toxic isn’t inaccurate.

England squads have long been populated with cliques dating back to Liverpool’s Spice Boys and the ascension to the squad of Manchester United’s youth team members. Now it’s a north-south clash. Terry had Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole in his corner whilst Gerrard had fellow Scousers Jamie Carragher and Wayne Rooney behind him after Terry’s ill-advised press conference following that dreary goalless draw against Algeria.

Factions can’t be countenanced ahead of a tournament, and it comes as a surprise that il cerbero Capello had no plans to react to the CPS’ date set. He witnessed first-hand what Terry attempted to engineer, but his erroneous decision to reappoint him as captain 11 months ago was a personal and professional disaster. He used to be the Don, now he had become Fredo.

The greater good supersedes any individual, and on that basis, Terry should not be selected out of the possibility that his presence could jeopardise harmony within the camp. Alcoholic benders, injuries, odd squads and quarrels have marred preparation for tournaments in the past, and England cannot allow that humiliation to arise again.

Yet the quandary is that if Terry were to miss out on his second Euros, then the FA have banned without process, which is effectively a sentence. Prejudice is irrelevant but Terry could feel hard done by, yet ironically it would be his club who were the instigators.

The CPS and Chelsea deserve the bulk of the flak for this latest dilemma. Chelsea for having the temerity to ask a judicial court to have pity for a man because he is a footballer, and the CPS for pandering to the club’s wishes, re-affirming their own prima donna penchant.

It would however be consistent with the treatment Ferdinand received when he missed a drugs test in 2003. The FA’s elitist panel have quietly done their utmost to aid Terry, from the smokescreen of the poppy palaver before the Spain friendly to hoping that he and Anton Ferdinand shake hands before last week’s FA Cup tie. Now though they have been forced to react with alacrity as campaigners against racism and MP’s demand that Terry be removed.

Nobody can come out of this well. Terry’s immodesty and pride certified that he would not relinquish the role or withdraw from international selection, but that was the ideal scenario. But that would be as nightmarish as waking up to Sonny and Cher every morning.

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