How true are the reports, then, that Rafa Benitez, The Penguin, has sentenced Chelsea captain John Terry to a stint on the bench? Unlike most stupid tabloid stories, The Mirror's inflammatory report claiming JT is to ride the bench for the foreseeable future is, almost miraculously, based on solid quotes. Unfortunately for them and fortunately for us, the quotes suggest absolutely nothing of the sort. Yes, they discuss John Terry and his return from injury, but they don't suggest that The Penguin is punishing Terry or simply doesn't fancy using him. Instead, they paint a picture of a man unwilling to risk an important asset by rushing him back too soon when he has perfectly-good alternatives available.
"Last week he had a setback, although there was no reaction when he came back to training. We have to manage the situation. He has to work. He has to train more with the team and then he will have more options to play. It’s a vicious circle - if he cannot play, he cannot improve his match-fitness, but if he can’t train with the team he can’t improve his fitness. In the meantime, if Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic are doing well, we can keep winning games. I am pleased with both of them."
There's nothing there, is there? Well, there's plenty to fit a perfectly-innocent story, but nothing to suggest the former Batman villain is disciplining Terry or unwilling to use him. If anything, he's expressing a desire to use him again, but feels he doesn't need to rush him back, due to the existing alternatives. He's also not wrong, maddening as it is. Terry may actually feel he's ready to return full-time, but this is a man who, when presented with a diagnosis of "cracked ribs," decided to pay on as if nothing had happened.
Given JT's propensity to want to rush back from injury -- which may have something to due with premature signs of decline in his game -- it makes sense that he would say he's ready again. Likewise, with three more-than-adequate options in David Luiz, Gary Cahill, and Branislav Ivanovic, Rafa has no reason to be anything less than certain about his ability to come back. It's a process, though, which The Penguin acknowledges. John Terry will be back soon, but he's probably going to reintroduced slowly until he's 100% ready to go.
Despite no short-term worry about John Terry, we are approaching the point where JT is going be used less-and-less as his career winds up. It won't be as far into the future as some hope, but also not as soon as some would hope. Gary Cahill and David Luiz could arguably be our first-choice defence now. With the emergence of Kenneth Omeruo as a starter for African champions Nigeria, Chelsea have at least five potential first-team centre backs on their books. Going back even a few years, the thought of John Terry being replaceable would have been almost-laughable.
This season, though, with his ban for racial abuse of Anton Ferdinand and long-term knee injury, we've seen an extended glimpse of the future without him. Yes, the results and performances have been poor, but when you account for a lack of a competent midfield and manager, they've been solid enough. Of course, we'd do well to get used to seeing Terry on the bench, but not just yet, and definitely not because the Mirror wildly-misinterpreted some quotes from an unpopular manager. Also, don't hate Rafa for this. That would mean you're ignoring the complete lack of evidence for his tactical nous.