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A Farewell to Chelsea's greatest

Chelsea receive the Premier League trophy this weekend but will also be saying goodbye to their most successful captain

Chelsea v Watford - Premier League Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Stamford Bridge was the venue, October 28, 1998 the date. Chelsea strolled to a 4-1 win over Aston Villa in the English League Cup third round but those in attendance could never have fathomed how significant that night would become in the history of Chelsea Football Club. A fresh-faced, 17-year-old John Terry stepped onto the turf for the first time. The rest, as they say, is history.

Terry heads into this weekend’s season-ending contest at home to Sunderland knowing this will be his last ever appearance at the Bridge as a member of the Blues. Seeing him in a Chelsea shirt has been a fixture of our lives for almost two decades now, and it will take some time for both player and club to get used to the odd feeling of him not being around. Clearing his dressing room out is bound to be an emotional affair, but also a proud one. Terry came into the Chelsea first-team squad with the world at his feet, and he leaves as arguably the most influential player to have graced the Stamford Bridge surface.

Frank Lampard departed just a year after becoming the club’s all-time top goalscorer. Didier Drogba left (and returned for a short time) having inspired an aging Blues side to their greatest conquest as they captured the Champions League trophy. Gianfranco Zola waved goodbye after contributing to Chelsea’s top four finish in 2003, a feat that would play a big part in Roman Abramovich deciding to buy the West London side, thus changing the fortunes of the club forever. For Terry, there is no one great moment or one personal record to point to which defines his time at Chelsea. But that’s because he is Mr. Chelsea.

Terry’s exploits through the years, far too numerous to properly recount, have become entrenched in club lore. Never being afraid to put his body on the line, to dive in, often literally head-first to save the day; he led the best defenses in England, scored some of our most important goals, and even played goalkeeper once. He’s been a part of the club’s greatest successes and some of its darkest moments. Terry gave Jose Mourinho his first big win as Chelsea manager when he headed in a Damien Duff corner late on to conquer the might of Frank Rijkaard’s Barcelona in March 2005. Three years later in 2008, he literally let the chance slip to crown the Blues Champions of Europe as his penalty effort in Moscow crashed against the post. Such were the highs and lows of JT’s Chelsea career.

The penalty slip versus Manchester United in Moscow would stain any other player’s career. But not John Terry. As would his flirtation with Manchester City’s new money in 2009, which he eventually leveraged into a big Chelsea contract. But not John Terry. His winning mentality, his leadership, his dedication on and off the pitch would always ensure the fans and the club were behind him.

Despite not playing the 2012 Champions League final in Munich due to suspension, his involvement throughout the tournament can’t be overlooked. He scored in the 4-1 win over Napoli in the second round, he helped keep a clean sheet in the quarter final versus Benfica and against Messi & Co. at the Bridge in the first leg. The second leg in Barcelona saw a rash moment end in a red card but not even that could take away from the catharsis of lifting the trophy with the Big Ears. After years of heartbreak, Terry donned his kit and stood beside best mate Frank Lampard, one hand of the Cup, the other high up in the air. Only those with an agenda would try to deny him of that moment.

With Terry in the squad, Chelsea never believed that all was lost. Whether it was a two-goal deficit in a match or a sizable point gap between them and the table toppers, he gave Chelsea hope that anything was possible. And it was that attitude that seen him overcome perhaps his biggest obstacle, Rafael Benitez.

When ‘The Interim One’ was in charge of Chelsea, Terry was often left out of the starting eleven. Benitez doubted the defender’s ability to cope with the demands of Chelsea’s admittedly busy fixtures list, but whether that was intentional or not — JT never relied on pace or quickness to handle his defensive assignments, after all — it was an attack on Terry’s character and talent. Two years later in 2015, after “one person told me I couldn’t play twice in one week”, Terry played every minute of Chelsea’s Premier League triumph (and missed just five games all season in all competitions). Not for the first time in his career, he refused to be bogged down by negative events, and let his football do the talking in proving his doubters wrong.

The tears were already flowing on Monday night. But of course he scored; Hollywood couldn’t write scripts this obvious. Fans who have sat in those seats for the past two decades and witnessed the young man’s journey from boot-shiner to Captain, Leader, Legend were rewarded with one more uplifting moment as only JT could provide. The bond between the Stamford Bridge faithful and John Terry is a bond like no other. There will be more tears on Sunday.

716 total appearances, 67 total goals and 19 years for Terry in a Chelsea shirt. He’s tasted success for the majority of that time, winning 5 Premier League titles, 1 Champions League crown, 5 FA Cups, 3 League Cups and 1 Europa League trophy. He’s seen it all and been at the heart of Chelsea’s most successful period. Yet even without all the glamour and shine of those trophies, Terry would still be regarded as one of the best to wear the armband. He’s epitomised what a captain should be. Even this season, when he’s been on the sideline and on the bench far more often than on the pitch, he’s been praised for his positive impact, his professionalism, and his leadership in the dressing room.

Terry walks into Sunday’s game with a heavy heart; as do the fans about to watch our beloved idol take the home field for one final bout. JT leaves as one of the most decorated players in English football history, it is only appropriate that he gets to do so while holding aloft the Premier League trophy one last time at Stamford Bridge.

John Terry. Captain. Leader. Legend. Forever.

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