In an article on this blog yesterday, I questioned the wisdom of John Terry’s recent comments directed towards Manchester United, or more specifically Sir Alex Ferguson, although at the time my main concern was the apparent lack of substance to his statements. However, some of the headlines in the press yesterday have only stood to highlight another problem or two the Chelsea skipper may well have created for himself as a result of his remarks to the media.
You see, whilst talking about new Chelsea manager, Luiz Felipe Scolari, what John might have actually said – as quoted in one paper – is, “A top manager will always make a difference. And we’ve got a top manager again.” But what he’s actually quoted as saying in yet another glaring headline is “Now that we have got a proper manager” – clearly words which don’t exactly cast the Chelsea captain in a particularly good light. And whilst I wouldn’t disagree with JT if he was to question the credentials of the previous Chelsea boss – I mean, I did it often enough myself last season – there are plenty out there who might argue it’s not the smartest move if he wants to show Capello he’s capable of conducting himself in a professional manner.
Anyway, back to my original point at John’s sudden interest in public debate through the media, and I’ve got to say it’s not something I’m all that comfortable with. His popularity outside of Chelsea has been on the decline for years anyway, partly the usual side effect of success but also as a result of the apparent lack of discipline he allowed to creep into his game. So, to risk giving his detractors even more ammunition by publicly going a couple of rounds with the opposition at the start of a season during which he’ll be getting a verbal battering for his Champions League slip anyway, just doesn’t make sense.
I just don’t understand how a player in his position, who’s been in the game as long as he has, can be so naive. We all know the press will interpret interviews whichever way it suits in order to sell the most copies and by willingly countering comments from the opposition, he’s just opening himself up for further criticism no matter what he’s actually said. Because despite the headlines suggesting Terry’s taken a pop at Avram Grant, when you read the interview in full, it becomes clear the Chelsea captain isn’t blatantly criticising his former boss, and maintains he did a decent job in the aftermath of TSO’s departure.
Terry says “Avram got a lot of criticism but he did well. Managers can be good in some departments and weak in others.” (I’ll assume making the tea was his forte then, but I digress). John goes on “But we had it out. Everyone spoke to the manager and said where we felt we could improve as a team, how we could improve training and certain things off the pitch, and he listened to them.” To me, that just bears out what I’d said all last season – here was a manager who was so clueless, his players had to instruct him – and yet JT’s still managed to offer a very generous defence of him.
JT certainly had a much bigger role to play at Chelsea last season, in a dressing room that must have taken a lot of holding together once Mourinho went through the back door so suddenly. Of events around last season, Terry says “I think I had to step up another level as captain last season. The circumstances of last season demanded I take on extra responsibility. We had Avram, who was very good, and Steve Clarke and Henk Ten Cate. But we’ve got such a big squad and it’s not just the players who are playing but those who don’t play who need to stay motivated. That became my job, to speak to the manager. Sometimes you have a three-way conversation when the manager would explain why a player wasn’t playing. If a manager tells you why you’re not playing it’s easier to deal with it. If a manager isn’t telling you why, or how you can improve to get in the team, that becomes frustrating. And that was something I arranged last year.”
And here’s where the problem’s created, because whilst I can see why he was forced into the role of go-between during some pretty bizarre goings-on at the club last season, his boundaries have become blurred. Whilst he was always a tremendous captain for Chelsea and a pretty good example of what wearing the armband should mean to a player, last season saw him lose sight of this principle role – no doubt as a direct result of this new ‘role’ off the field. He was being pushed into being more than just the Chelsea captain to such an extent it was probably inevitable that he’d start to believe it.
Indeed, his reaction following our Champions League defeat to Manchester United at the end of last season surely demonstrates exactly how much responsibility he felt he had on his shoulders. I mean, I’ve heard plenty of suggestions that his was a total over-reaction to the defeat, almost to the point of being choreographed and yet if he believed he’d both captained and ‘managed’ the losing side, is it any wonder his grief was two-fold?
Anyway, having picked himself up and dusted himself down (not the easiest thing to do while facing the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney and Owen Hargreaves on England duty you’d assume), Terry states “I had to remind myself I’m the captain of Chelsea and that I have to lead the players. And I had to focus on the new season, the new players and the new manager.” Poignant words, because for me, that’s exactly what John Terry needs to do – remember he’s the Chelsea captain.
We have a new manager now – in the words of a certain paper, a proper manager – and by all accounts, this isn’t one who’ll need anybody else doing the job for him. Indeed, Terry already speaks very highly of his new boss, who he suggests has “that charisma Mourinho had.” The Chelsea captain says “Tactically he is very aware and when he talks everyone listens. He has that aura about him. He doesn’t speak very often but when he does he gets the attention of everyone. We needed that. He likes to have a laugh and joke. He also has that fear factor. We haven’t really seen that side of him yet but I’m sure we will. We’ve all read the stories about him. I’ve even watched the video (of Scolari punching Serbia defender Ivica Dragutinovic) and when he occasionally raises his voice you think ‘Oh there it is.”
The new Chelsea boss however, argumentative or not, appears to have opted for a peaceful start to the season, so far avoiding being drawn into verbal fisticuffs with the opposition by the press – an example it would be very wise for John Terry to follow if he is to go back to doing what he used to do best – being the Chelsea captain.