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John Terry and misleading narratives

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Mike Hewitt

It's nice of the Telegraph to notice that John Terry's having a good year. Because, well, he is -- he's rebounded from the disaster that was 2012/13 in a huge way, becoming once more the rock on which the (unsurprisingly re-solidified) defence is based. But, as Chelsea supporters, you already knew that, because it's been impossible to watch a game this year without seeing that Terry's back to what looks very much like he's best.

No, what's interesting about the Telegraph piece is the boilerplate language they use to point out that the centre back has a controversial past:

The intervening years have been turbulent on and off the field: from the alleged affair with Wayne Bridge’s then partner Vanessa Perroncel, the World Cup debacle, being convicted of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, to being stripped off the England captaincy not once but twice and retiring from international football.

It's obviously fine to point out that Terry's had off-field problems, and it would be remiss not to do so, especially in pro-Terry articles. But the passage above looks to stretch the facts -- even the alleged facts -- as far as they can possibly go.

In the first place, Ms. Perroncel was not Wayne Bridge's 'then partner'; the alleged affair took place after their breakup, an account which has never been challenged. And in the second, the framing of the Ferdinand affair seems almost deliberately designed to mislead. Terry was 'convicted' by the FA, but it would be very easy for a reader to confuse the FA verdict with that of the well-known court case, in which Terry was found not guilty. Why fail to distinguish the two?

This is rhetoric at its most base, a nasty little bomb of propaganda dropped in to further vilify Terry and (by extension) the team. Terry's issues are obviously troubling, but they have by this point been so mis-remembered and mis-reported that it appears even newspapers cannot comment upon them sensibly. There's no problem with mounting an attack on a player if they deserve it, but it should be based on fact rather than commonly repeated fiction.

Criticise the captain all you like -- all we ask is that you're honest about it.