“This new contract is not to say: ‘Thank you very much’,” explained Jose Mourinho, after handing John Terry a one-year extension. “It is because John continues to perform. He is a top defender. I am happy that he completely deserves this new contract after a season where he has already played 40 matches.”
The Chelsea manager often wraps his words up in metaphors, but here he told a simple truth. Terry has been producing top displays since he made his Blues debut in 1998, and at 34 years old he continues to. That is why he is still at Chelsea.
Mourinho knows the defender better than most. After all, he was the man who installed Terry as club captain, back in 2004 after taking over at Stamford Bridge. Terry had worn the armband previously, but only when Marcel Desailly was absent.
That piece of fabric which stretches around his left bicep has become synonymous with the player. You half imagine that long after Terry retires he will be spotted still wearing it in the street - it’s part of his arm now.
Rafa Benitez said Terry was stuck in a “vicious circle”, leaving the defender out of the side as part of his rotation policy, much to the chagrin of Chelsea supporters and the man himself. Since then it’s gone from vicious circle to full cycle, with Terry having ruled the roost among two generations of Chelsea players. From the old guard, the likes of Petr Cech, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba, with whom Terry lifted the Champions League, to Chelsea 2.0: Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois and Cesc Fabregas.
Mourinho returned to south west London and decade on from the Blues first title in the Premier League era, they lifted the trophy once more. And at the core of the team? A restored John Terry.
His retirement from international duty has helped - on that front England’s loss is Chelsea’s gain. The injury problems of two years ago have dried up. Terry looks after himself properly, making the right moves off the pitch so he can move with reckless abandon on it, throwing himself into tackles. That said, his footballing intelligence has allowed him to adapt his game, with Gary Cahill now the brawn of the partnership and Terry taking fewer risks, smarter with his positioning.
The pair were a day early when it came to returning to training, with Terry also using the gym during the summer and showing off about it on his Instagram account. Social media is a good way for him to become more of a human and less of a scapegoat to his enemies. It allows access to a different Terry, beyond the snarling centre-half reviled by so many outside of Stamford Bridge.
We know Terry has had his problems, and they’re significant, but it is testament to his quality as a player that Chelsea have stood by him throughout, regardless of the morality of the situation. At times it would have been easier to let him walk away, but Roman Abramovich has stuck by his man and the Russian has been paid back in full.
Over the years, Terry has accrued four Premier Leagues, five FA Cups, three League Cups, one Champions League, some more minor trophies and a smattering of individual accolades. From warming toilet seats for senior players while a trainee at the club, to sitting proudly on the throne as the king of SW6, Terry has been through it all, and is still here, still fighting.
Sometimes it seems he is motivated by proving people wrong, or at least shutting them up. How many times has he scored the game after muck has been raked up about him? More importantly, how often has he scored full stop? Terry loves a goal and it is a key aspect of Chelsea’s game.
With Branislav Ivanovic and Gary Cahill also potent from set-pieces, Terry makes Chelsea one of the most dangerous sides around when there’s a dead-ball situation.
Back in the day he used to bet against William Gallas as the pair tried to outscore each other. Terry has scored some crucial goals for the club. One of the most memorable was in the Champions League against Barcelona back in 2015, a header that helped Chelsea win 4-2, reaching the quarter-finals of the competition. Ten years later he’s still going.
The goal against the Catalans sparked what proved to be a long rivalry, over land and sea. Chelsea saw off them again in 2012 as they reached the final, although Terry was sent off for kneeing Alexis Sanchez in the back - perhaps he knew the Chilean was destined for Arsenal.
Terry’s suspension for the clash with Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena was a bitter blow for both player and club to swallow. But Terry is proud of the club’s Champions League triumph and it displays what a strong team player he is that he can enjoy it so much, despite not playing.
It was Terry’s goal again, in a man of the match performance, which got Chelsea going in the Capital One Cup final against Tottenham earlier in 2015. When the team is in trouble, they know they can turn to their rock. That is what they will do again as they look to defend their Premier League title. Terry shows no signs of slowing down - his most recent campaign was one of his best for some time.
Now, as well as leading the side, guiding them through games, Terry must also pass on his wisdom and experience to young Kurt Happy Zouma. Terry took bits and pieces from Desailly and Frank Leboeuf, a tad too from Gallas and Ricardo Carvalho. Michael Duberry too offered key advice to Terry, who at 17 was then in the midst of his formative years.
Transmitting that collected wisdom to a new generation is a job Terry will happily do. In the past he has taken control of sessions for Chelsea’s youth team, as he cuts his teeth on the technical side of things to get his coaching badges. Terry will still be at the club long after his body eventually deserts him.
Chelsea’s system is to only offer one-year deals to older players, so in the second half of the upcoming season Terry will be looking for a contract renewal if his form should permit. You wouldn’t bet against it. Given the way he has adapted his game, perhaps it will only be the rise of Zouma which phases him out, rather than his own performances.
“One person said I couldn’t play twice in a week,” stated Terry back in May, with a glint in his eye, moments after winning the Premier League for a fourth time.
“He knows who he is. I’m still here, still fighting. This is what I live for. I’ve been a ball boy, I’ve been a mascot, I’ve painted the stadium. I’ve done everything.” He has, and continues to.
We Ain't Got No History's 2015/16 season preview was edited by Joe Tweeds and designed by Graham MacAree. If you've enjoyed the work of the authors who generously donated their time to this project, please share with your friends and consider supporting The Chelsea Foundation as a way of saying thank you.Credits