The England and Chelsea football captain John Terry faced the scorn of the terraces last night as he made his first public appearance after allegations that he cheated on his wife with a former team-mate's girlfriend.
Terry led the Chelsea team to victory at Burnley, refusing to comment further on claims that he had betrayed wife Toni by having an affair with the French underwear model Vanessa Perroncel, then the partner of the former Chelsea defender Wayne Bridge. The claims were made public after Terry and his legal team failed in an attempt to use a "super injunction" to suppress details of the allegations.
It was also claimed last night that within weeks of embarking upon the affair in the autumn of last year, Terry got Ms Perroncel pregnant. The Sunday Mirror claimed the centre-back arranged for her to have an abortion at an exclusive clinic where she was smuggled in by a side door.
The player, named "Dad of the Year" in 2009, faced abuse from the crowd as it chanted "Same old Terry – always cheating", and received a yellow card. He then silenced the crowd with the winning goal. His club, which described the incident as a "personal matter", insisted he had its full support.
According to the bookmakers, Terry remains favourite to captain England at the World Cup this summer, but that will be decided by the England manager, Fabio Capello. But it seems unlikely his captaincy could survive further allegations. Experts warned that his earning potential may also be affected. Ben Hatton, chief executive of the sponsorship specialists Alexander Ross Limited, said: "Damage to his reputation will impact on his value. He will have to work harder to demonstrate that he will bring value to a brand."
Terry, who has an estimated personal wealth of almost £17m, has sponsorship deals with Umbro, Samsung, Nationwide and Pro Evolution Soccer. Their silence was deafening as all refused to comment except Nationwide, which stressed that it sponsors the England team and not Terry himself.
The allegations about Terry's private life came to light after a gagging order was lifted by Mr Justice Tugendhat at the High Court in London on Friday. One of the country's leading football agents told The Independent on Sunday: "In terms of sponsors the judge was damning of him and his motives, and that will clearly have an effect; you just have to look at what happened to Tiger Woods. The wisdom of those who made him captain in the first place should come under review. There are quite a lot of doubts that should have been expressed."
Ms Perroncel, who is the mother of Bridge's child, has hired the publicist Max Clifford as an adviser. He said last night: "She phoned me yesterday and said that the media had been pounding on the door and she asked for me to look after her. She's clearly been upset by the whole thing and I think she might want to clear her name." Terry's wife, Toni Poole, the mother of his twin children Georgie and Summer, has not spoken publicly.
Bridge, who now plays for Manchester City, said in a statement via his lawyer: "I have read the press reporting in the last two days. The reports deal with matters which are of a deeply personal and private nature. My primary concern is the welfare of my son. Therefore, I intend to make no comment either now or in the future about these reports."
In November, Terry faced criticism after people claiming to act for him hawked him around for commercial gain. Steve Parks of Riviera Entertainment, which sent the emails, said: "That was months ago. We have nothing to do with John Terry; we're not working for him at all now." Terry has previously faced accusations of infidelity and was also investigated over claims he took £10,000 to give private tours of Chelsea's training ground. Chelsea accepted that Terry did not receive cash in exchange for the tour.
Terry refused to comment last night as he signed autographs on leaving the team hotel to head for the Burnley match. Chelsea's assistant boss, Ray Wilkins, defended his inclusion. "John has got his football head on... he is a fantastic professional as far as the footballing side of his life is concerned. He's done wonderfully well for us."
The Football Association has refused to comment on the case.
There's nowhere to hide on a football pitch, with an army of fans ready to pounce on any mishap, mistake, or sheer misfortune that might befall the footballers they watch week in week out.
And when it comes to turning insults into an art form, the savagery of the terrace chant is unequalled – taking any tragedy, big or small, and turning it into football folklore.
Here are some examples of ones fit to print:
"Peter Shilton, Peter Shilton, does your missus know you're here?" plagued the former England goalkeeper in the 1980s, with fans mercilessly mocking a drunken romp that he had with a young woman one night after he'd gone out leaving his wife at home.
"Two Andy Gorams, there's only two Andy Gorams". The response of Celtic fans to the news that the Rangers goalkeeper was reported to have schitzophrenia.
"When the ball hits your head, and you're sat in Row Z, that's Zamora!". Sung by Manchester United fans to the melody of 'That's Amore', top celebrate the striker's habit of missing the goal.
Ji Sung Park
"Park, Park, Where ever you may be; You eat dogs in your home country; it could be worse; You could be scouse; Eating rats in your council house". An 'affectionate' ditty sung by Manchester United fans to the tune of 'Dance, dance wherever you may be'
"Hes got, no neck, he looks like f**king Shrek, Wayne Rooney, Wayne Rooney". A favourite with Newcastle United fans that has spread to just about every other ground that the Manchester United star plays at.
Roman Abramovich/Delia Smith
Norwich fans to Chelsea fans: "You've got a Russian crook we've got a super cook". Chelsea fans back to Norwich fans: "We've got Abramovich, you've got a crazy b***h". It isn't always the players that get abuse, as this banter slating the respective owners of the two football clubs demonstrates.