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John Terry on Mourinho’s mind games, and that time he was almost sold to Huddersfield

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Revealing Instagram chat from the club legend

Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

John Terry has shed a bit of light on just why so many players would burn out under José Mourinho, thanks to the twice-over Chelsea head coach’s style of management.

In an Q&A with Stephen Hendry on Instagram Live, part of JT’s efforts to raise awareness for his fundraising efforts for the NHS (donate here), the Chelsea legend gave some insight on The Special One’s man-management methods by describing a couple incidents, one specific, the other a bit more generic.

“We won the league and came back pre-season, first day, me and Gary Cahill kept giving the ball away. He stopped the session, we’d signed Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa, a couple of others.

“He said, ‘You two, I’ll go and spend £100m on a couple of other centre-backs if you keep giving the ball away.’ We looked at each other and thought, ‘Oh wow’. So me and Gaz now, first day of pre-season, we’ve gone round started smashing everyone in training. The tempo has gone up, everyone’s kicking lumps out of each other.

“After training he came and put his arm round us both and said, ‘That’s why you’ll be starting this season.’ He just knew exactly what he was doing, he was four steps ahead of everyone else.”

It’s unclear if JT’s talking about 2014 preseason (when we signed Fàbregas and Costa) or the 2015 preseason (after we had actually won the league), but that only highlights the dual-edged nature of Mourinho’s high pressure style. It works great, or it doesn’t work at all. It’s all or nothing. It propelled us to the title in 2014; it drove us to within a point of the relegation zone a year later.

In short doses, it certainly produces results (or at least used to). But it’s not sustainable. Very few, if any players, can work effectively under such constant mind[FUN]ery.

And it sure sounds like it was constant.

“He knew when to push your buttons and when not to.

“Even small things, you’d be sitting at home and get a text message off him going, ‘Unbelievable today in training you’re my main man, love you captain.’ You’d sit there and go, ‘That’s unbelievable’.

“So a really good relationship, but also I was petrified of him, like probably most players was.

“You’d go in the next day and you’d get nothing from him at all. He’d walk past you, say nothing and blank you. You’d think you’ve upset him. Did I text something back? You look at your messages and think, ‘No, I’m alright there.’

“After training he’d go, ‘That’s why you’re my captain, you just needed that little push.’”

-John Terry; source: Instagram Live via Star

It’s hard to argue with Mourinho’s winning methods of course (although recent evidence has made it a lot easier), but the only way it would be sustainable is if he changed the majority of his squad every couple years, to keep the players fresh mentally. As it turns out, it’s a lot easier just to change teams instead.

Terry also revealed how close he came to not playing under José Mourinho at all. While we’ve all known about his flirtation with / £29m approach from — (negotiating tactics for a new Chelsea contract?)* — Manchester City in 2007, JT almost left for good in April 2000 after Chelsea had accepted a bid for him from Huddersfield Town, then managed by Steve Bruce ... who would later sign Terry for Aston Villa.

“During my time the only two clubs that approached me were Huddersfield when I first came through. Steve Bruce was manager of Huddersfield.

“Chelsea accepted a bid and Vialli said no. Which obviously I’m very thankful to Luca for, he gave me my debut. Great man, great manager.

-John Terry; source: Instagram Live via Metro

Vialli may have regretted not playing JT more, but he certainly made the right call in preventing the sale. While Vialli would be sacked just five games into the 2000-01 season, Terry would go on to establish himself for good under Claudio Ranieri. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Speaking of history, it should be noted that the details of this Huddersfield story have changed a bit over the years. Steve Bruce once told it as Terry rejecting the move, while JT himself once told the Chelsea website that the club turned it down. Either way, it didn’t go through, thankfully.

NB. Over the weekend, Vialli also confirmed that he was given the all-clear after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Grande Luca!


* Here’s how JT tells that story now. Note the wonderful contractual coincidence at the end.

“Man City approached Chelsea, made an offer official.

“Simple as this, I sat with the owner, face-to-face and said ‘I never want to leave Chelsea, that’s a fact. If you want to sell me then it’s a different story, I clearly don’t want to stay. But I’m telling you off the bat that I never want to leave this football club.’

“Within that, I was due a new contract, we shook hands on a new contract, agreed a deal and I stayed another five, six years after that.”

-John Terry; source: Instagram Live via Metro