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?

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
News
news
Life and Style
Jack Cooksey goes for the grand unveiling - moments before dropping his new iPhone 6 on the floor
iphone launch
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
football
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week