Captain, Leader, Legend!
Those three words are now part of Chelsea’s vocabulary. They were a tribute throughout John George Terry’s career and will be his epitaph when he has left.
These three terms have resonated with Terry throughout his illustrious career with Chelsea to the extent that even the fans from Chelsea’s rivals in the English Premiership and indeed across the globe would easily recognise them as referring to him were they to be asked in any footballing quiz.
Having moved to Chelsea from West Ham at a tender age of 14, Terry started playing for the club’s youth and reserve teams.
Owing to a shortage of central defenders at the time Terry was shifted from his initial midfield position to a centre-back role, a position he has played to this day. After finishing school, he joined the club on a Youth Training Scheme at the age of 16 and signed professional terms a year later with Chelsea Football Club.
Debut and first team establishment
JT as he is also affectionately known made his Chelsea debut on 28 October 1998, aged 16 as a late substitute in a League Cup tie with Aston Villa and his first start came later that season in an FA Cup third round match, a 2–0 win over Oldham Athletic.
From then on there was no doubt that he was going to be a stalwart in Chelsea football club’s rear-guard.
Terry began to establish himself in the Chelsea first team from the 2000-01 season, making 23 starts, and was voted the club’s player of the year. He continued his progress during 2001-02, becoming a regular in the defence alongside club captain and France international Marcel Desailly.
On 5 December 2001, he captained Chelsea for the first time, in a league match against Charlton Athletic. In the 2003-04 season, his performances led to him being handed the captain’s armband by manager Claudio Ranieri when Desailly was out of the team.
He played well in the absence of the French international, forming a strong defensive partnership with William Gallas another great French international defender to don the Chelsea blue colours.
Permanent captaincy and continuous success
Following Desailly’s retirement, new Chelsea manager José Mourinho chose Terry as his club captain, a choice which was vindicated throughout the 2004-05 season as Chelsea won the Premier League title in record-breaking fashion with the best defensive record in Football League history, with the most clean-sheets and the most points accrued.
JT was voted Player of the Year by his fellow professionals in England and scored eight goals, including a late winner against Barcelona, in the UEFA Champions League. He was subsequently voted the best defender in the Champions League for the season.
In September 2005, he was selected as a member of the World XI at the FIFPRO awards. That team was chosen by a vote of professional footballers based in 40 countries, which confirms how highly regarded JT was among fellow footballers.
Unsurprisingly, Chelsea defended their Premier League title in 2005-06, earning 91 points, and confirming the title with a 3–0 victory against Manchester United, thanks to JT’s capacity to lead from the back.
Versatility and defensive nous — both at club and international level
For the young ones at heart, it is also pertinent to indicate how versatile this Stamford Bridge giant was for Chelsea.
For instance, in a match on 14 October 2006 against Reading, Terry had to take over in goal for Chelsea in the final minutes of the match after goalkeepers Petr Cech and Carlo Cudicini were injured and Chelsea had no substitutes remaining.
Terry kept a clean-sheet as a goalkeeper as Chelsea held on to win 1-0!
Terry’s defensive nous was not enjoyed by Chelsea alone as he also represented the England national team as well.
Terry made his England debut in June 2003 against Serbia and Montenegro, and started his first match for England on 20 August 2003 at Portman Road, Ipswich, in a friendly against Croatia. England won 3-1.
His main central defensive partner had been Rio Ferdinand. He played for his country at Euro 2004, and England Manager Sven-Göran Eriksson stated that Terry was the first-choice centre back, ahead of Sol Campbell who at that time was a defensive rock himself.
On 10 August 2006, Steve McClaren named John Terry as the England captain, succeeding David Beckham.
At the time, McClaren said, “Choosing a captain is one of the most important decisions a coach has to make. I’m certain I’ve got the right man in John Terry. I’m convinced he will prove to be one of the best captains England has ever had”.
After representing England 78 times and scoring 6 goals, JT announced on 23 September 2012 that he had retired from international football. Despite this announcement, a lot of England managers tried to lure JT out of international retirement but he could not budge.
Final farewell with remarkable records set in his wake
After Chelsea celebrated their Premier League victory for the 2016-2017 season, JT played his 717th and final game for Chelsea on 21 May in a 5-1 home win over Sunderland, coming off in the 28th minute with the substitution board going up in the 26th minute, to coincide with his shirt number and he received a guard of honour from his teammates.
The guard of honour received a loud standing ovation from the packed Stamford Bridge stadium and moved JT to tears as he handed over the captain’s armband to his successor Gary Cahill.
JT’s record at Chelsea is astounding having played for the team for a record 717 times (the third player to do so for Chelsea) scoring 67 goals in the process.
Those 67 goals make him the highest scoring defender of all time in the Premiership, unless someone decides to eclipse that in the future. This will not be an easy task, though.
Terry captained Chelsea a record 578 times. Despite a low-key ending to his Blues career, he is the most successful captain in Chelsea’s history and has won every major honour during his time at Stamford Bridge.
Is Terry Mr Chelsea?
Any doubts why this footballing icon is referred to as Captain, Leader and Legend at Chelsea? This writer is even tempted to call this football giant Mr Chelsea.
Having supported Chelsea since the 1980s when the team was coached by Glenn Hoddle through to the Gullit, Vialli, Grant, Di Matteo, Ancelotti, Ranieri, Hiddink, Mourinho and others up to the current Conte revolution, I have always struggled to pick the best for that title between Frank Lampard and our Captain Fantastic.
But because of his loyalty (22 years at Chelsea) to Chelsea throughout his career (he has declared that he may retire from football), I will give the Mr Chelsea honour to John George Terry by a player and a half.
Hopefully he will decide and be allowed to join the coaching staff at Chelsea, seeing that he has started doing his coaching badges.
Whatever decision he makes all we can say is thank you very much for the great years our one and only “JT. Captain. Leader. Legend.”
Written by Spencer Joubert
Follow Spencer on Twitter @SpencerJoubert
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