James Lawton: John Terry's status is the sign of a club with no moral agenda
Terry has become the heart of Chelsea, a point of identity, a badge of defiance
It was quite hard to know which was less surprising at 11.11am yesterday, the survival of our old battered world or the serene progress of the one inhabited by John Terry at Chelsea.
Certainly, no one acquainted with the mores and priorities of Stamford Bridge would have anticipated much of a difference in the odds against either the captain or the planet suffering any ultimately serious penalty for their accumulation of mistakes.
You may say that this is a little bit harsh on someone who didn't invent nuclear weapons, sanction genocide or incubate smallpox, but everything is relative. When you remembered this, the London Evening Standard headline that announced Chelsea's plan to offer the 32-year-old Terry a fresh contract in the new year was at the very least fresh evidence that Roman Abramovich's football organisation might struggle to recognise a moral dilemma even if it came hurtling down the King's Road on the back of an open truck.
Terry, it had been confirmed once more, is beyond a whiff of censure in what has become his personal fortress. Some men build their empires with the consistent application of the most fastidiously observed values. Terry moves from one broken place to another, each one a new outrage to someone's sensitivities. But is he bothered? No, and why should he be?
While Frank Lampard, whose personal conduct has been, in general comparison with that of his captain, touching on the saintly since they were both involved in that notorious binge at a Heathrow hotel 11 years ago, Didier Drogba and Ashley Cole have either been pointed to the door or sent packing after passing 30, Terry's future appears to be secured indefinitely, perhaps even long enough for him to fulfil his dream of becoming manager.
In that event we really would have a new officially approved box of dubious tricks to consider.
Chelsea would be rubber-stamping an example which down the years has tended to ravage the concept of professional responsibility. Itemising the offences is probably an exercise of some redundancy at this point of the story, but maybe it is enough to recall the force with which Lord Ouseley, the head of the Kick It Out campaign and a resigning Football Association councillor, recently criticised Chelsea's support of Terry after he was found guilty of racist abuse.
Ouseley's charge is heavily vindicated by Chelsea's latest behaviour. Their willingness to extend their captain's contract confirms Ouseley's contention that Chelsea saw him precisely as Liverpool did Luis Suarez after he was found guilty of racism, not as someone who had committed a grievous offence against the good name of the game but a prime asset.
Suarez's value is that of a hugely talented footballer player. Terry retains a degree of that status but, above all, he has become as much a talisman as a captain of enduring influence and impressive on-field leadership, at least if for the purposes of the broader argument we forget his mind-boggling red card in the Champions League semi-final in Barcelona. Terry has become the heart of Chelsea and, if this leaves much of the wider football world aghast, it is something, the owner and his advisers don't need telling, hugely celebrated by the bulk of the club's support.
This, no doubt, represents an important consideration at a time when interim manager Rafa Benitez still needs a lot more than a 5-1 victory over Leeds United to sweep away the unprecedented hostility that greeted his appointment in place of Roberto Di Matteo.
With the likely arrival of the potential new hero Radamel Falcao, a £48m striker whose current form for Atletico Madrid is a haunting reminder of what his predecessor at the Vicente Calderon stadium, Fernando Torres, used to be – and at least two more additions to the superior talent pool occupied by Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata – why would Chelsea continue to circle their wagons around Terry?
Clearly, he has become more than a still valuable player and exceptionally motivated leader. He has become a badge of defiance, a point of identity, at a club which has long believed that is sufficiently rich and successful that it can operate entirely on its own terms.
That it is one ever more bereft of a moral agenda has never seemed less of a concern at Stamford Bridge. If a club can fire a manager a few months after he rescued it from a season of impending disaster, delivering two of the great prizes of football in the process, if it can launch a ram raid on the reputation of a leading referee, if it can announce time after time that it could scarcely care less for the conventions of football success, it is surely a small matter to confirm its belief in Terry's heroic status. It is no little complication that when he hasn't been besmirching his own, his club's and football's reputation off the field, he has indeed displayed remarkable qualities as both a player and a captain.
Fabio Capello fell on his sword, somewhat buckled though it was, rather than accept the loss of Terry's captaincy. The new England manager, Roy Hodgson, waded into controversy when he persisted with Terry the player and rejected his sworn adversary Rio Ferdinand for highly debatable "footballing reasons". Such judgements were based on the belief that the ageing Terry still had irreplaceable qualities.
This is also the apparently impregnable thinking of Chelsea Football Club. Terry is Chelsea, they are saying, and the rest of football can make of it whatever it likes. He may be a disgrace, but he is our disgrace, our leader, our identity. It is an extraordinary achievement, you have to acknowledge, even as it sends a chill right down to the bones.
Fergie: from hairdryer to love-bombing
Once Sir Alex Ferguson appeared at Harvard to explain his successful business methods there was bound to be an aftermath of probing analysis.
Most intriguing, surely, is the assessment of "life coach" Roz Spencer that old Iron Guts indulges in "love-bombing", with the additional thought that, "despite his shouting there is someone on the team who offers something reparative, who makes the players feel good".
Ferguson stresses that he has modified the most strenuous use of the hairdryer because of his understanding that times change, and that if financial reward has increased hugely, so has the psychological "fragility" of some of the chief beneficiaries.
Love-bombing? Skilfully placed agents of reparation? Who knows? They may well be facets of one of the most enduring and cunning plots in the history of football.
On the other hand, it might just be that no one has ever quite so relentlessly despised the concept of defeat.
'Special One' can complete movie trilogy
The Champions League round of 16 may well carry football into a new and dazzling competitive dimension. For many, though, its central fascination will be the fate of Jose Mourinho and the possibility that victory for his Real Madrid over Manchester United will prove another stepping stone in his less than guarded ambition to take over one day at Old Trafford.
What an extraordinary journey it would be – and quite unique if it should follow Real's 10th European championship.
Already Mourinho is one of just three coaches to have won the title with separate clubs. The others are Ottmar Hitzfeld (Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich) and Ernst Happel (Feyenoord and Hamburg). For Mourinho to add a success with Real to those of Porto and Internazionale would not only be stupendous but part of the script of the movie in which he said he was starring when he arrived at Stamford Bridge. If it happens, who would bet against another Oscar with United?
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