Monday’s joint announcement from Chelsea and John Terry that the captain will leave at the end of the season will come as no surprise to supporters accustomed to the club calling time on stalwarts’ playing, even if they still have a season or two of football left in them.
At 36, Terry is very much at the veteran stage of a phenomenal career that, to date, has seen him make 713 appearances for Chelsea. Although his first-team opportunities have been scarce this season under Antonio Conte, an injury early in the campaign, coupled with a lack of European competition, limited his opportunity for playing time.
With a return to Champions League football all but assured for next season, a fit Terry might have expected to play in the competition’s group-stage games, as well as the early rounds of the League Cup, and be a back-up for Premier League fixtures.
However, Conte has his different plans for the future. The manager has made a commendable and positive impact at Stamford Bridge since his arrival last summer and there is no case to argue that Terry should have walked straight back into the first team when he regained fitness.
Meanwhile, though plenty of Blues fans had been hoping that the icon they refer to as their “captain, leader, legend” might have stayed on at Chelsea either as a squad member or as part of the coaching staff, Terry himself stated that he is “eager to carry on playing.”
Conscious of what happened when another fellow club legend Frank Lampard ended up playing for Manchester City — and scoring against Chelsea! — supporters will be nervous about where Terry might end up and the impact he might have at a new club.
His career tally of 66 goals for the Blues may fall someway short of Lampard’s record haul of 211, but he remains a man for the big occasion and none would be bigger than facing the club where he made such a name for himself over two decades.
There has been speculation that Terry could join West Bromwich Albion in the summer. Their manager Tony Pulis favours experienced heads in his stout defence with 37-year old Gareth McAuley, who has made 30 appearances at centre-back and scored seven goals this season, being a prime example.
Terry would fit in well at The Hawthorns and the prospect of seeing him lining up against Chelsea — and, worse still, scoring — will no doubt re-ignite any lingering arguments that the club’s hierarchy should have done more to keep him at the Bridge.
Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia noted that the club and Terry were looking ahead at the possibility of him returning at some point in the future in a non-playing capacity; the cordial nature of this announcement makes that plausible.
These latest developments are a marked improvement on what transpired last year. January 2016 saw the start of a fractious, protracted contract negotiation between player and club which, at one point, saw Terry remark that there was “not going to be a fairytale ending” at Stamford Bridge.
By May and with no agreement in sight, Terry made an emotional speech to supporters following the last game of the season and was set to hold a farewell party. Days later, though, he signed a one-year deal, in what might be seen as a shrewd by the incoming Conte to get fans onside early.
Before he says his goodbyes this time, Terry says he is committed to helping Chelsea for the remainder of this season and, with the Premier League and FA Cup double still a very real prospect, his influence will prove invaluable, especially at a time when the club’s title aspirations have taken a bit of a knock.
Should Chelsea get back on track, the chance remains that they could secure the title with a game to spare. If that is the case, it would be a wonderful gesture by Antonio Conte to afford Terry one last start in the final league match of the season against Sunderland at Stamford Bridge.
And wouldn’t it be fitting if Terry brought down the curtain on his glittering career, in which he has won 14 major honours, by scoring the winning goal with a trademark towering header before being the first to hold aloft the Premier League trophy?
What is football without dreams? Nothing. Terry has realised his, but this last one would be something extra special for the man and his legion of supporters.
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