John Terry has decided to end his self-imposed international retirement and will make himself available to Roy Hodgson for selection for England, starting with the end-of-season showcase friendlies against the Republic of Ireland and Brazil.
It represents yet another dramatic chapter in the controversial career of Terry, 32, who is understood to have remained in contact with manager Hodgson ever since his announcement in September that he no longer wished to play for the national team after 78 caps over nine years.
As well as his relationship with Hodgson, Terry is understood to believe that he could coexist in the same squad as Rio Ferdinand, whose brother Anton he was found guilty by a commission in September of racially abusing. Terry wants to play in the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil, and then bow out permanently.
He made his decision to withdraw after it became clear the Football Association was pursuing its disciplinary case against him, subsequently proved, for racial abuse of Anton Ferdinand. He has always claimed he was told the charge would be dropped should he win the court case he contested on the same issue in July. Terry’s legal team argued to the independent regulatory commission in September that the FA’s own rules dictated it should adopt the court’s verdict. However, the FA’s lawyers persuaded the commission that new evidence which had emerged since the court case meant the charge should be heard again.
Eight days ago, Terry refused to shake the hand of FA chairman, David Bernstein, one of those he holds responsible for – in his view – changing position on whether the player’s disciplinary case should go ahead. It is not clear what the FA’s view on Terry returning for England would be, but Hodgson has never ruled out the possibility.
There are also potential problems when it comes to the relationship of Terry and Rio Ferdinand. The two have not been reconciled and Ferdinand was recalled to the last England squad, to face San Marino and Montenegro in the World Cup qualifiers in March, although he later withdrew, citing fitness issues. Yet for all the potential problems around Terry there is no question that Hodgson faced major shortages in the centre-back positions during those two games. As well as Ferdinand’s withdrawal last month, he lost Gary Cahill and Michael Dawson to injury, having already been without Phil Jagielka and Phil Jones for the two games. Terry is no longer an automatic first choice for Chelsea, but Hodgson has long admired him.
Any decision to bring back Terry will be fraught with difficulties for Hodgson, who is well aware of the enmity that the player feels towards Bernstein and the FA. Bernstein, the key force in appointing the current England manager, will step down from the position this July, to be replaced by Greg Dyke.
Given how tight World Cup qualifying group H is likely to be – England trail the leaders Montenegro by two points – Hodgson may feel he has no choice but to return to Terry if he faces injuries in the centre-back position again. Certainly, there would be no reason for the FA to prevent him from doing so. However, the organisation may believe that Terry has to serve some kind of international ban for being found guilty by the commission, a ban he pre-empted by retiring. Some at the FA could make the argument he should not be permitted to return at all.
There is also the wider question of how Terry’s team-mates will respond. He has always claimed no team-mate has ever complained about his behaviour to his face. In Terry’s absence, England have won only two of their five subsequent World Cup qualifiers, both against San Marino. They did, however, beat Brazil in a friendly at Wembley in February.