John Terry’s career will most likely be remembered for his role in Chelsea’s Europa League victory. Not his actions on this pitch. He didn’t play in that game. For actions after it, when he changed into his full Chelsea kit, complete with captain’s armband to lift the trophy ahead of his team-mates who had just toiled for 90mins to win the bloody thing.
It’s a disappointing legacy for a man who can probably easily claim to be one of England’s best defenders for the last two decades. It’s also a fitting tribute for a footballer who has always had the ability to divide opinion in the game.
Sure, Chelsea fans love him without question. He is (as the Stamford Bridge banner reads) their Captain, their Leader and their Legend. But even the most ardent Blue would have to admit that his actions on and off the pitch are at times questionable. It’s very much a case of “Yes he’s a c**t, but he’s OUR c**t.” True to form. In the end, Terry’s final action in a Chelsea shirt was just as divisive.
The week proceeding their final Premier League game against Sunderland, a week in which the Londoners had been crowned Champions of England, was focused on Terry. Instead of celebrating the efforts of Conte’s men, the Captain’s statement about possible retirement moments after his club captured the title stole the back pages and invited countless blubbering tributes from the likes of JT-Apologist Harry Redknapp, who could barely keep “little Harry” in his trousers as he gushed on TalkSport:
“I love John. I’m a great fan of his. You’ve got a leader. What a man. I think he’s fantastic.
That’s the dream to sign John Terry”.
Terry may well end up at Redknapp’s Birmingham City team but only if he avoids the lifetime ban from football he deserves for what happened in the 26th minute of Chelsea’s game against Sunderland.
As Terry’s famous number 26 ticked around on the scoreboard the Sunderland players, under the instructions of their manager, kicked the ball out of play to allow the defender to be substituted along with a full guard of honour from his team-mates.
Let’s remember this was a professional game of football, a professional game of football that members of the public had paid money to see. A professional game of football that the public had paid money to see in what has been an incredibly difficult season for The Black Cats. I was struggling to see how Sunderland could embarrass themselves further this season but somehow they managed it.
Of course, it wasn’t all Sunderland’s fault. That they should willfully offer a tribute to a player that many of their fans would despise is one thing but at least it wasn’t their idea. It wasn’t even Chelsea’s idea. This gesture, this elevation of Terry onto the pedestal of footballing hero was the brainchild of one man…JT himself. Un. Be. Lieveable.
Compare this departure to that of Wayne Rooney this weekend. Wazza undoubtedly played his final game of his Manchester United career at home to Crystal Palace. With two minutes of normal time remaining, the fourth official held up his number and he was substituted. No fan-fare, no choreographed goodbye. Simple. Understated. He waved to acknowledge the chants of “Rooney! Rooney! Rooney!” from the four sides of Old Trafford and he was gone. That said, he had helped keep his exit low-key by being totally anonymous for the preceding 88 minutes.
Surely that’s the point. A real legend doesn’t need to call himself a legend. They just have that status. Terry’s need to be in the limelight and to be held as one of the team’s greatest ever only damages that status.
In the end, John Terry ended his Chelsea career, leaving the pitch with his team 1-0 down to one of the worst Sunderland team’s I can remember. Wayne Bridge must have been pissing himself.
Jim hosts On The Left Side, an alternartive, satirical football podcast. You can listen (and laugh) at him on the latest episode here: