James Lawton: John Terry retirement will see England lose a man of deep contradictions
News of Terry's retirement will be greeted with relief by those who believe the requirements of captaincy run deeper presence on the field
English international football lost a combative and frequently commanding leader last night when John Terry brought his international career to an end by his own hand.
Having been twice stripped of the England captaincy, he decided the FA inquiry into the charge he racially abused Anton Ferdinand of Queen's Park Rangers was an act of disloyalty toward a zealous servant following the not guilty verdict he won in the courts.
Many – and probably not least his ferocious rival and brother of Anton, Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand –will see supreme irony in Terry's decision given his alleged affair with the partner of his former Chelsea team-mate Wayne Bridge effectively split the England team in two before the 2010 World Cup. But this is Terry, a man of deep contradictions and, perhaps above all, a singular tendency to follow his instincts – and then reflect later.
Last night's development had another irony in that a few hours earlier England manager Roy Hodgson, who insisted Terry was a key element in his team for the recent European Championships for strictly "football reasons", watched Rio Ferdinand perform superbly for United in their 2-1 victory over Liverpool at Anfield.
Hodgson's decision may have caused ripples at the Football Association offices where the decision to take away the captaincy from Terry because of his impending racism trial had provoked the resignation of Fabio Capello but it was certainly justified by the player's performances in the Ukraine. He produced a series of notably effective performances and at 31 suggested he had the legs and the ambition to play an important part in the campaign for World Cup qualification in Brazil in 2014.
But then who knew how many fresh controversies would explode around the head of a figure who, in many, many ways, had come to represent the celebrity culture of the England game? Terry, adored by the Chelsea following for his hugely committed style, had a track record which made his elevation to the England captaincy somewhat miraculous, but in his nine years in an England shirt his competitive passion could never be questioned.
Even so, the news of his retirement from international football will no doubt be greeted with considerable relief by those who believe the requirements of captaincy – and more recently, in the absence of the armband, powerful influence in the England dressing room – run a little deeper than a driving presence on the field.
Capello sacked Terry, then re-instated him when he believed his strength was not to be found in those who had assumed the leadership of the team.
That was one testament to the positive side of a walking, running enigma.
Much less uplifting was the sense that Terry failed to understand there was more to leading your country than putting on an impressive game face. No doubt he will be missed for the fury of his presence on the field but there is another strong feeling that off it there will be rather less damage for someone like Hodgson to control.
Latest in Sport
Paul Scholes: Manchester United vs Liverpool - I don't understand why Brendan Rodgers was not more attacking against Basel
Jesus Christ plays for Chelsea - that's what one in five children thinks
Transfer Talk: Nemanja Vidic to return to Manchester United; Hazard to leave Chelsea; Sunderland want Radamel Falcao
Frank Warren column: Don't bet on Amir Khan landing pay day against Floyd Mayweather
Manchester United transfer news: Kevin Strootman move edges closer
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food