Perhaps it was fitting that a man who has polarised opinion in English football continued to do so even when leaving the field for the last time.
That’s exactly what John Terry did when he organised his own substitution in the 26th minute (the same as his shirt number) to a guard of honour from his team mates.
Due to his perceived character flaws and incredible qualities as a footballer, opinion has been divided over whether this was a fitting spectacle for one of the greatest centre backs the Premier League has ever seen, or a farcical display of self-indulgence by an egotistical and questionable character.
John Terry has immortalised himself into Premier League and Chelsea folklore with his outstanding leadership, no nonsense defending that has the thwarted the best in the league for over a decade and his impressive collection of trophies including five Premier League titles.
For the first of those titles in 2005, he was a major part of the finest defence ever seen in the Premier League era; they only conceded an astonishing fifteen goals in the entire season as Jose Mourinho’s side ran away with the title with a record 95 points.
However, in addition to his defensive and leadership abilities, his qualities with the ball have been understated throughout his career. He has always been a fine and accomplished distributor of the ball, whilst chipping in with 67 goals during his time at Chelsea.
Terry’s continued importance for each of the many managers that have been at Chelsea illustrates not only his ability to adapt to various styles of play, but also the extent of his leadership abilities.
He is able to so heavily inspire such a diverse group of players with differing personalities, the slogan “Captain. Leader. Legend” is etched in association with Terry, it is difficult to argue against such an accurate description of a player immortalised in Chelsea’s history books.
These qualities have so rarely conformed onto one single player, and maybe we should forgive Terry for the way in which he admittedly orchestrated his own substitution, maybe he has earned the right to leave the game in whichever manner he prefers.
For some, this incident was just another in a long list that has shaped the public perception into one of an egotistical, self- absorbed arrogant man. Terry’s case was not helped when Roma legend Francesco Totti played his last game as if it were any other, as a substitute with no special actions asked of anyone else.
However, unlike Totti, Terry has been highly criticised for some of his personal antics which has turned him into something of a football villain.
There were the rumours of his affair with the girlfriend of Wayne Bridge and his conviction by the FA for uttering racial slurs, both of which lost him the England captaincy, and his decision to wear a full kit despite missing Chelsea’s triumphant 2012 Champions League final provoked an onslaught of criticism of a man who it appeared must be in the spotlight at all times.
The final substitution was just another reason for people to despise him, rather than to finally appreciate his incredible career.
Both sides of the argument have merit, but the problem is that there is very little middle ground when it comes to the public perception of Terry, you either adore him or despise him. As a result, the fallout from his substitution has been thrown greatly out of proportion, especially when considering the context of the game.
In the end, Antonio Conte agreed to it, David Moyes agreed to it, and the game had absolutely no significance or could have made any impact on the Premier League table.
Whilst people will always have reason to dislike John Terry the man, we should try and appreciate John Terry the footballer while we can, because true one club legends really are very hard to find.
Written by Sam Thomas.
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