John Terry spoke for the first time last night about Fabio Capello's resignation as England manager and thanked the Italian coach for standing by him in spite of the Football Association's insistence that the defender be stripped of the captaincy of the national team for the second time.
Ahead of tonight's Champions League second leg game against Napoli in the first knockout round of the competition tonight, Terry also hit back at suggestions that the senior players run Chelsea and said that it was entirely the decision of Roman Abramovich and his board to dismiss Andre Villas-Boas this month.
In what was the 31-year-old's first major press conference since he lost the England captaincy in January, he took just one question on the departure of Capello – posed by an Italian journalist in spite of the club's insistence that the subject be avoided. Asked whether he had a "message" for Capello, Terry paid tribute to his former manager's decision to back him.
Terry said: "Quite clearly, Fabio backed me. That comes from a relationship with myself and him, the relationship we built up. I stood up for him on the football pitch, and he stood up for me off the pitch. I respect that from him, I respect him as a man and for what he did for me. Complete respect both ways."
Sitting alongside caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo at Stamford Bridge, Terry said it was "complete nonsense" that the club was controlled by the likes of Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Terry himself. Terry, whose team trail Napoli 3-1 from the first leg, said that it was simply the "perception from outside" that the players were in charge of the club and were able to get managers sacked.
He said: "That [suggestion players are in control] is completely untrue. What I said was, as a group of players collectively – and Andre would be in that with us, because we win and lose together at this club – we're all responsible for the results we have. But, unfortunately, as the manager, it fell on Andre's head. We'd hold our hands up and say that, performance-wise, we are to blame as well.
"As for the senior players running this football club, that's nonsense. That's just the perception from outside. Roman and the board make the decisions. But on the football pitch, that can affect what happens upstairs of course. If we don't win matches, the board step in. But speculating from outside, or previous managers, that's complete nonsense."
Although Terry could not discuss the allegations against him of racial abuse towards Anton Ferdinand which will come to court on 9 July, the 31-year-old was adamant that the "issues" around him had not affected his performances on the pitch.
Terry said: "I think I've shown that [I'm focused and committed as ever] with my performances, despite what's happening off the field. I've shown with my performances before my operation, performances that were really good. I'm focused. I know what I have to do for Chelsea. Nothing has changed there. Andre would back that up.
"As captain I'm very fortunate and privileged. We were just saying walking up, if you had said 10 years ago that Robbie and I would be sitting here with such a big night coming up tomorrow, we'd have probably laughed at you. But that's the reality. You won't find two other people who care more about the football club going into this game. "
Currently in fifth in the Premier League and three points off the Champions League places, Terry said it was an imperative that the club secure a place in the competition again next season. "Naturally we have players out of contract and players in negotiation with their current contracts," he said. "I'm hoping many stay and many come in. But the key factor when it comes to players coming into this club is that we need to be playing Champions League football next year
"We need Champions League football financially, and also to attract the best players. So we need to be in the competition next season. We understand as a group what we need to do to ensure that happens, and we'll do everything we can to make sure it does happen."