Tuesday, July 28, 2009

True Blue

"Tears of a Clown"

Another day, another leading footballer treating the fans like idiots. This time, it’s the turn of Mr. Chelsea, England’s Brave John Terry, who, after weeks of silence, has finally spoken to reject a move to Manchester City and commit his future to Chelsea.

I know there has been comment that I should have made a statement earlier. However, throughout this period there have been numerous discussions between myself, the owner and the Chelsea board and we all agreed that the timing of any statement would suit everyone involved in those talks, not any outside influences or agendas.

Would suit everyone involved? Surely the club’s captain has not forgotten the fans, who might just have wanted Terry to politely decline City’s advances a little earlier. After all, it’s not as if Terry lacked opportunities with Chelsea holding press conferences for the release of (yet another) new kit, the announcement of (yet another) new manager and before (yet another) pre-season tour to the US.

Assuming that Terry was not struck mute over the summer, it’s not as if he is usually shy about voicing his opinions. Granted, he normally waits until Chelsea get a new manager, when he will blather on about how brilliant they will be and the positive impact they will have on “JT United”; only matched by his comments when the same manager is unceremoniously sacked, when he will innocently insist that they had his full support.

I have lost count of the times that Terry has loudly proclaimed his love for the club:

I am Chelsea through and through ... I want to stay for life, I love the club, love the players, love the manager, Roman … I really can’t see myself leaving …  I’m so passionate about Chelsea … I am and always will be Chelsea … I want to end my career at the club that I love … I am totally committed to Chelsea.

On and on it goes - and yet apparently he only wants to stay for life if he gets assurances that players like Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole stay too.

"Chelsea fans can sit on it and spin"

No, the reality is that this was another grandstanding opportunity for Terry to enhance his reputation as one of English football’s supreme loyalists, while at the same time increasing his leverage for another hike in his already massive contract. Apparently, Terry can now look forward to increasing his weekly salary from £125,000 to £150,000. Obviously, Terry did not look to re-negotiate his contract, which had another three years to run. No sirree, Bob! It’s just a pleasing side effect of his friendship with Roman, or, as Terry himself put it, without any trace of irony:

That's the kind of relationship you can't buy. You can't put a price on things like that.

When he told his adoring public that he had received assurances from Abramovich that the club's ambition "remains as high as ever", he somehow managed to leave out the bit where they will throw another £25,000 a week at him.

In the latest attempt to destroy the English language, Chelsea’s new offer was described as a “loyalty” payment, which is a strange way to describe the result of another calculating mercenary holding his club to ransom before fobbing off its fans with a transparent load of rubbish. Funny how quickly loyalty evaporates when obscene amounts of money are plonked on the table. Even Noel Gallagher could see through this twaddle:

I don’t like John Terry and I never have. He’s got funny eyes and he’s a cry baby. He’s also a Cockney and he’d absolutely be coming just for the money.

Remember Terry’s demands the last time he re-negotiated his contract in 2007, when he asked for a 10 year contract including a clause to guarantee that he would be the club’s best paid player for the duration of the deal plus an option to become Chelsea’s manager when he retired from playing.

This response may seem excessively cynical, but we have been here before. In fact, it was about this time last summer that JT’s great mate, Frank Lampard, put us through a similar song and dance when Inter flashed the cash. Once again, the result was a declaration of undying loyalty to the club – and a new contract.

"JT takes one for the team"

At the very least, Terry has hardly been an agent of stabilization in the first days of Carlo Ancelotti’s reign, more an agent for himself. You also have to ask yourself why City maintained their pursuit of Terry for so long. Although they are pretty delusional, they are not complete idiots, so it is fair to assume that they have been given some encouragement along the line.

Of course, Terry has proved to be an expert manipulator in the past. His former team-mate, Claude Makelele, claimed in his autobiography that a transfer request from the skipper led to Jose Mourinho’s departure in September 2007:

When John Terry let his discontent be known to Kenyon and asked him for an immediate transfer, Abramovich reacted immediately. The departure of Terry was totally unimaginable, from the point of view of the supporters, the players or the club owners. Mourinho was asked to pack his bags.

Similarly, when Fabio Capello was considering who would be his England captain, Terry managed to rubbish his main competition, Rio Ferdinand, without even mentioning him:

If they don’t want an England captain fighting for England in every way possible, fighting to win the ball and come out of the tackle, fighting for the cause, then that’s down to them to make that decision.

"Taking the fans for a ride"

Despite his reputation as Captain Courageous, a lionheart that would spill blood for his country, he has not been above the odd tactical injury, like the time he missed two World Cup qualifiers against Kazakhstan and Belarus with a back injury, only to make a surprise return to the Chelsea team just three days later.

Although not a complete shock, some were still surprised when the straitlaced Capello eventually appointed Terry as his England captain, given some of the character defects displayed in the past. The late Oliver Reed may have been a bit of a lad, but you wouldn’t want him leading out your nation’s football team and Terry has much in common with the old hell-raiser with his reputation for drinking, gambling and womanizing.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Terry was among a group of Chelsea players accused of drunkenly mocking American tourists at Heathrow, stripping naked, laughing and vomiting. The following year, he was arrested for a fracas in a London night club, where a doorman was injured, though he was later cleared of charges of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, possessing a bottle as an offensive weapon and affray. In 2004, he was reputedly one of three Chelsea stars said to have risked £40,000 a week betting on the horses and the dogs. Terry’s love life has been no less colourful, as he himself has confessed to cheating on his wife several times.

"The Crying Game, part one"

You may wish to excuse these acts as being down to the impetuosity of youth, but only last season Terry once again had a late night brush with the law following boorish behaviour at a nightclub (along with the appalling Ashley Cole). Chelsea manager, Guus Hiddink, admitted he was astonished to find himself forced to confront the issue of discipline with two such experienced players. Maybe he wouldn’t have been surprised at Terry acting the Big Time Charlie, if he had seen the photos of JT parking his Bentley in a disabled bay with no thought of potentially depriving a needy individual of access to local amenities.

On the pitch, we have become accustomed to the sight of Terry leading a charge of furious team-mates towards any referee who dares to make a call against them. Most recently, Terry vigorously defended Didier Drogba’s deranged histrionics after the Champions League semi-final defeat against Barcelona, arguing that his team-mate was well within his rights to race onto the pitch, launch a finger-jabbing rant and hurl expletives directly into a television camera. He then irresponsibly claimed that the referee should “face the consequences”, so was presumably delighted that the ref had to be hustled away from the ground under guard, moved from his hotel to another location and then smuggled back home to Oslo, where he received death threats.

Maybe all of this aggression is to cover up the realisation that John Terry is no longer a great player. His pace and skills have clearly declined as a result of age and injuries. Even during the halcyon days of the Special One, he benefited from tremendous protection in front of him through Claude Makelele, plus he had Petr Cech in awesome form behind him. He has not even been the best defender at his club with Ricardo Carvalho demonstrating more skill, pace and positional ability. Nor is he the best defender for his country, as Rio Ferdinand is much more composed and mature.

We can forgive him his penalty slip that cost Chelsea the Champions League, especially as I have never seen a funnier sight on a football field, but surely even Terry realised he was talking nonsense when he insisted that he had proved he was a big-game player after scoring against the USA in a meaningless friendly days later. His decline was shown up when he was sent-off against, ironically, Manchester City, when he hauled down Jo, rather than expose his lack of pace.

"The Crying Game, part two"

At least he’s an inspirational captain, right? Well, I would ask what effect it has on a team to see their captain in bits after losing any important match. We have all seen Terry crying his eyes out after losing the Champions League final to Manchester United, the Champions League semi-final to Liverpool and after being kocked out of the World Cup quarter-final by Portugal. Apart from the tears, there is another common denominator here: JT leading his side to defeat. Maybe his familiarity with losing is why he described Chelsea’s season as “successful”, when they only won the FA Cup, despite all their riches.

At least this story has a happy ending with Mr. Chelsea pledging his future to the club he loves. Let the badge-kissing begin.

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