AND SO, the long and illustrious, sometimes controversial, career of John Terry is over. Tears will flow at Stamford Bridge at the final game, one that Terry can only watch from the sidelines after his second red card of the season. As a result, the “captain, leader, legend” ended his Chelsea days by stripping off his captain’s armband and walking off the pitch in added time at Sunderland. As soon as it was recalled that this was his second red of 2015-16, everyone was calculating that this was, in fact, the final appearance of Stamford Bridge’s favourite son.
There is a certain predictability about Terry’s finale. He has often courted trouble. There are some people that will always be associated with drama – George Best, Gazza, Boy George, Diego Maradona, Princess Diana. Their lives, always under scrutiny, cannot proceed and end normally. In some ways, John Terry comes into that category. Nothing is ever straight forward.
Terry is loved at Chelsea and there’s no question that the club will feel somewhat different when he goes. He is the masthead of an era, a symbol of unprecedented success and transformation. Chelsea 2016, regardless of their pathetic defence of the Premier, are one of the world’s top clubs. Very few players have lived right through that process, but Terry has. He’s the ultimate badge-kissing, fist-clenching central defender skipper. The type of home-grown, loyal and unflinching clubman that the fans identify with. He will be missed.
But it’s a career that has been punctuated by episodes that have dragged Terry into law courts and onto the front page of the tabloids. Whatever he has done, he has been forgiven by the Chelsea fans, and indeed the club. On the other hand, he has shown he cares, once paying for the funeral of a young fan.
As a player, there was no doubting his ability or value to Chelsea. Some managers didn’t take to him as intimately as Jose Mourinho and when Rafa Benitez chose to use him sparingly, it looked as though his time at Chelsea was coming to an end. In 2014-15, the last throes of Mourinho, Terry played all 38 Premier League games, the first time he has achieved that feat in his career. He had an outstanding campaign. Perhaps, in hindsight, he should have called it a day at that point.
Unfortunately, Terry now has a shabby end to his Chelsea association – unless, of course, the club offer him a glorious way out early next season.
Like his old England team-mate Steven Gerrard at Liverpool, Terry has been linked to a series of unfortunate events that have plagued his career. Terry, in 2008, had the chance to give Chelsea their first UEFA Champions League. It would have been highly appropriate if he had scored the penalty goal that beat Manchester United, but he slipped and his shot scrapped the upright. He was disconsolate as United won the shoot-out.
Then in 2012, Terry foolishly fouled Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez, digging his knee into his back in the semi-final. It was a typically rash move by the Chelsea captain and kept him out of the UEFA Champions League final. Terry sat in the stand as his team-mates won against Bayern Munich, but joined them on the pitch in his kit for the presentation. Although the fans loved it, only Terry could get away with such a stunt and the incident has since been mocked in many inventive ways. Terry also missed the 2013 Europa League final against Benfica, this time due to injury, but he was involved once more in the post-match celebrations.
The wheel of misfortune has come round again for Terry with that red card at the Stadium of Light. It’s almost as if there’s a self-destruct button always close to Terry, possibly on that badge that he loves to kiss. One things for certain, despite Leicester City visiting Stamford Bridge on that last afternoon, most of the talk will be about a player who won’t be on the pitch. But rest assured, number 26 will be in his kit at the final whistle, and the Chelsea fans will give him a rousing farewell.