Roberto Di Matteo is relaxed about John Terry's apparent assumption of managerial responsibilities at Chelsea. The captain shouted instructions from the technical area after being substituted on Wednesday night, and has recently denied claims that senior players have too much influence at Stamford Bridge. Di Matteo said Terry was "reinforcing messages", and that the club was lucky to have leaders like him.
Rather than representing a challenge to his authority, caretaker manager Di Matteo said Terry was just meeting expectations. "I expect all my players to be responsible and help each other and reinforce the messages that I give before the game starts and during the game," Di Matteo said. "We are lucky that we have some leaders in this team and we expect them to reinforce messages. That's exactly what happened."
On the issue of the senior players running the club, as the Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny recently claimed, Di Matteo said it was "not true". He played down the fact that it was Terry, the captain and figurehead, who was most obviously vocal. "It was not just him," Di Matteo insisted, adding: "We've got some great quality players – Michael Essien, Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, David Luiz, all with experience. Every manager would like to have some leaders. Fortunately we have some."
Asked whether he would take Terry under his wing and give him further responsibilities, Di Matteo said: "I think he's still too young for that; he has many years to play. I can help him with badges first. But I would recommend to anybody to play as long as they can."
Di Matteo continues his stewardship of Chelsea tomorrow with an FA Cup quarter-final at home against Leicester City, and hopes to continue the recent upturn in form.
"Every win just gives you a little bit of confidence," he said. "We won against Birmingham, we won against Stoke, then we won against Napoli; that brings a little bit of belief back into the team."
Having scored in the 1997 FA Cup final against Middlesbrough, Di Matteo has good memories of the competition, which he described as "one of the most exciting in the world". He also led Chelsea out for the 2002 final, soon after retiring due to injury. "It was a nice gesture of club and manager to let me walk out the team for the final," he recalled.