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During the celebrations of Chelsea’s title celebrations on Sunday afternoon, John Terry managed to find time to aim a barb at Rafael Benitez, his former coach of 2 seasons ago. “One person said I couldn’t play twice in a week,” said the defender, “he knows who he is. I’m still here, still fighting.”
Terry was referring to the 2012-13 campaign where he would only make 28 appearances- 14 of them in the Premier League, when Benitez took charge as interim manager halfway through and led the club to a Europa League triumph. Hampered by consistent injuries to his knee and lower-back, the Chelsea captain failed to find a regular place in Benitez’s team though his personal revival has been an emphatic riposte to the Spaniard.
It has also become a testament to the excellence of Jose Mourinho’s medical team who have ensured 13 players have managed over 20 appearances for the club this term and Terry is one of them. The sciatic herniated disc, originally suffered by Terry in 2006 but which returned to plague him in 2012, has vanished since Mourinho returned to Chelsea in the summer of 2013, allowing the defender to appear 34 times in the Premier League last season, as well as 11 times in the Champions League during Chelsea’s run to the semi-finals.
This time around he has completed every single one of Chelsea’s 35 Premier League games as the London club clinched their fourth title with 3 games to spare. His partnership with Gary Cahill has been breached only 27 times which gives them the league’s most miserly defensive record and he is an integral component to an impermeable spine that has been the main factor behind Chelsea’s success.
Diego Costa’s relentless committal up front, the creative vim of Cesc Fabregas in midfield with the defensive-midfield behemoth Nemanja Matic lurking behind him personifies the steel chassis on which Mourinho has forged his new version of Chelsea, but it is all directed and held together by the unmovable Terry once again.
Since making his debut in League Cup tie with Aston Villa in 1998, Terry has won 16 trophies with the club he has been with since joining when he was 14 year old boy. To put into context, Chelsea have won 25 major honours in their entire history and Terry has been around for 64% of them. Captain, Leader, Legend reads the banner in the Matthew Harding Stand at Stamford Bridge and he is worthy of all the reverence supporters reserve for him. Nobody is more deserving of the “Mr Chelsea” tag than Terry.
The grandeur of the Roman Abramovich era at Chelsea, the billions spent to establish the club as a force on the European stage and the ruthless culling of managers who even hinted at underperforming will stick in the craw to some and Terry, wearing the armband through all of the upheaval, could be the embodiment of resentment many hold for the club.
Mocking the September 11th terrorism attacks at Heathrow in 2001, parking his Bentley in a disabled bay, embarking on an extramarital affair with the wife of team-mate Wayne Bridge and facing criminal charges for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand of QPR in 2012 are all on Terry’s sheet of controversies but he has emerged from it all with an authoritative resilience which, perhaps oddly, can be admired.
Terry has been crafted into a player whom nothing phases, whether it leaving himself to criticism for twice claiming the glory of his team’s triumphs in Europe or missing the penalty that cost the club the Champions League in 2008, very few would now bet against him emerging stronger for any personal turbulence he may face.
Thriving when everybody seems to be against him Terry is an asset of unparalleled importance for Mourinho to possess as he builds his team on an unbridled determination to defeat the odds. In March, he found himself exposed against West Ham’s attacking pace and vigour while his hamstring and back began to crumble at Upton Park but, summoning every last drop of know-how and experience, he managed to hold his defence firm to keep another clean sheet, one of 17 he has participated in this campaign, while Eden Hazard ensured they came away from East London with all three points.
Closing in on the league when faced with a trip to Arsenal at the end of April, Terry churned out a stunning display of defensive imperviousness to keep the Gunners at bay. “He was just amazing, his best performance for Chelsea” said Mourinho.
It was typical Terry, a player who has not lost an inch of ability despite the ageing bones or the knocks that have slowly taken their toll on eroding limbs. He remains a specialist in having to win regardless of a slight shift in playing style that sees him attacking the ball less and becoming far more regressive than he used to be.
He has made just 12 fouls so far in this Premier League campaign, refusing to commit himself in natural fear of leaving his depleting pace at risk. Mourinho may need to find an antidote to that as both Spurs and PSG have both exposed the folly of Chelsea’s flat defending this year, but Terry will be one hard rock to dispense with.
It is not only his unrivalled on-pitch wisdom and understanding of the game that will be wrenching for Mourinho to lose, but his influence in a dressing room in which he has witnessed everything pass through in the Abramovich era. Players have come and go, 20 of them partners of the back for the captain, but Terry has remained, as solid and as powerful as ever.
“I am far from finished”, is Terry’s warning to his Premier League rivals as he plans to stay on for a while longer yet. “The last thing I want to do is go out there and get embarrassed every week. It will be for me to say and I’ll make sure I’m ahead of everyone else.”
At the moment, in the Premier League at least, Terry remains levels ahead of his peers.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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