Following the return of Jose Mourinho to Stamford Bridge, along with the portion of his form the Portuguese clearly stole as an insurance policy during his visit with Internazionale, John Terry has made a semi-miraculous turn-around from ageing, declining outcast under Rafa Benitez. The former England captain has been restored to his place at the heart of the Chelsea defence. What a difference a year makes. At times last season, it was widely-assumed that the current season would be his last at Chelsea, before he was released to some foreign pasture where he could roam free and see out his days as a racially-insensitive lothario.
Now, though, the 33-year-old has come back so far that rumours of a return to the England side, whose defence has been sorely missing him since his retirement in the wake of the Anton Ferdinand affair, have raised their heads several times. Up to now, though, there have only been vague rumours and denials from all parties. Now, though, the Mirror reckon Chelsea's captain has truly changed his mind after all and hopes to return to the side for his 79th cap in March.
There are several issues in play on this one, so don't go jumping to any conclusions just yet. Obviously, from a purely-pragmatic point of view, John Terry is still a better defender than Phil Jagielka and Chelsea partner Gary Cahill. England have looked semi-solid at the back in the past year, but not nearly enough to be competitive in a major competition. Of course, there is no guarantee of any kind that a hypothetical Terry return would solve those defensive issues.
No matter the ultimate impact of it, should John Terry desire an England return, there certainly wouldn't be any footballing reasons for Roy Hodgson to deny him another chance. Political reasons, on the other hand, and myriad and varied. The first is simply that Jagielka, Cahill, and Co. earned England a place in Brazil of their own accord. Parachuting in another defender to benefit from that, especially one as senior as Terry, could cause some unrest in the camp.
Beyond that, the fact remains that John Terry is a deeply-divisive figure in English football. Many supporters -- probably most outside of Chelsea -- dislike him. He and England left back Ashley Cole would likely come out near the top of any Premier League "Most Boos received" table, after the 0-0 half-time scoreline, of course. To many, Terry's return would be seen less as the triumphant return of a long-away brother and more as a jerk getting away without punishment once again. The negative feeling could extend to the England squad itself, due to Terry's history of misdeeds and challenges to authority.
In the last World Cup tournament in 2010, Terry famously attempted a coup within the camp, which had a pronounced negative effect on the side's performance in South Africa. John Terry is a captain at heart, and, as such, can't not be one. Even when he hasn't been officially given the armband, the feeling that he's the de facto squad leader has usually stuck around. It's hard to see Steven Gerrard wanting that sort of presence re-introduced to potentially threaten the authority he's created since inheriting the armband from Terry.
Ultimately, I feel the return of John Terry to the England team will only happen if The FA, manager Roy Hodgson, and Terry himself can all come out of it more-or-less saving face. It comes down to the fact that a Terry return has the potential to leave Hodgson and his employers looking weak by appearing to crawl back to a disgraced player, particularly one who's held such an obvious grudge against members of the hierarchy.
Terry, famously, refused to shake the hand of ex-chairman David Bernstein during a Champions League Trophy handover ceremony last year. While Bernstein is no longer with The FA, and, thus, no longer a stumbling block for any return, his feud with Terry leaves major questions about both sides' willingness to work with the other.
On the whole, I think I'd rather JT not jump back into international football. If he's going to risk injury playing a match, I'd rather it be in the Chelsea cause. I'd also prefer he avoid the controversy surrounding any kind of return or bringing the issues which led to his retirement back to the surface. Alas, though, I fear the call of the Three Lions and a probable final World Cup chance will prove too much for Terry to resist, especially now the calls for him to return are growing more-and-more.
With such pressure on his shoulders, there's no really good decision to be made. If he agrees a return, there's a risk any England failure could be placed upon him. On the other hand, however, there's just as much risk of any failure without him being spun as down to his unwillingness to answer the call. I do genuinely-think a deal will be worked out to see Terry return for the Denmark friendly and World Cup, but I rather hope he stays retired.