No wonder the English can't win Wimbledon. Their scandalised reaction, on learning that the Prime Minister indulges in an occasional game of tennis, implied the most infamous misuse of catgut since Rome burned. A saner view, surely, is that his cathartic thrashing of "The Clegger" offers a prototype that might be usefully adapted by others. If christened "JT", for instance, the same machine might cause such a proliferation of unplayable forehands throughout Europe that Djokovic himself would be overwhelmed, overnight, by a Bavarian butcher, Catalan baker and Neapolitan candlestick-maker. Come to that, you might even see a Wimbledon wild card for Frank Lampard.
It is precisely because Lampard is everything to their club that John Terry proclaims himself to be – a true "leed-uh", and obvious managerial prospect – that he accommodated so graciously the intrusion, in Munich last weekend, of an ego that has now taken the nation beyond a slough of distaste towards new, comic heights of self-parody. (You may have seen the viral lampoons that have since introduced Terry to various moments in history, from moon landings to defiance of tanks in Tiananmen Square.)
In turn, however, Cromwellian disapproval of David Cameron's temerity in essaying some wholesome work-life balance might go some way to explaining why many blues of another ilk remain so humourless in their defence of Terry. Nobody, after all, could question his work ethic: his belief that bulldog courage, pride and industry can always redeem a want of flair. Few, certainly, will dissent who watched Chelsea spend a total of five hours trying to prevent Barcelona and Bayern playing football – for three of which they counted Terry among their number.
We can all acknowledge the sterling qualities that enabled Messrs Luiz, Cahill and Co to pull it off last week, albeit lavishly assisted by a want of corresponding nerve in their opponents' finishing. True, it is instructive to imagine the indignation on these shores had the roles been transposed. And how fitting that the two outstanding strikes, in the shoot-out, should have been detonated by Chelsea defenders. Luiz and Cole both stepped up with the conviction of men who had played their role to the full.
In which respect, of course, they differed conspicuously from one who had further abased his reputation with his folly in Barcelona. The junior centre-backs who played the final on one hamstring apiece would be perfectly within their rights to raise an eyebrow as Terry, ludicrously kitted out all the way down to shin pads, deprived Lampard of the distinction that was his due in lifting the trophy alone. "Hang on, mate," they might very well say. "What about that idiotic red in the semi? We won this despite you, not because of you."
Yet again, Terry has betrayed the classic symptoms of insecurity, oddly seldom far from the surface in bullies. Captain, leed-uh, legend? Well, the last bit is increasingly true – in the sense of "myth". Terry's excruciating hijack of centre stage had an unmistakably desperate quality. He had watched the 10 betrayed in Barcelona, and the 11 heroes of Munich, show him up as dispensable.
Clearly, Terry is not quite over the hill as yet. But fair-minded Chelsea fans concede that he can nowadays be every bit as embarrassing as he may on occasion remain inspiring. If he had any class, Terry would have joined the celebrations in a suit and left the trophy to a man whose dignity and intelligence almost seem to expand into the vacuum created by his showy machismo. As it is, his vanity continues to be mysteriously cosseted not just by his club – which is its own business – but also by his country.
Unsurprisingly, the new England manager could not bring himself to risk the obvious solution to the Terry-Ferdinand dilemma, which was to leave both behind. But surely those same conservative instincts in Roy Hodgson were outraged by Terry's notorious insubordination at England's last international tournament. It seemed plain then, finally and irrevocably, that he had become more hassle than he is worth. And that was long before the distraction of the Anton Ferdinand saga. Yet somehow Terry endures as the Rasputin of the England squad.
And so poor Phil Jagielka finds himself reduced to a stand-by. Here is a defender in his prime, who last year shut out Spain – alongside Joleon Lescott – with a performance so coolly understated that it could only have achieved a greater contrast to Terry's ostentatious breast-beating had he worn a cowl. (It bears reiterating that both Jagielka and Lescott joined the elite under a manager, in David Moyes, who inculcates in his men due humility in their commitment to the cause.)
It is to Terry's credit that he is one of few who take palpable pride in the England shirt. But you suspect that the public servant whose idea of service extends to slice and top-spin did not misrepresent too many compatriots when advising the German Chancellor that Terry's suspension in Munich was no bad thing. Arguably, the result itself proved as much – but the scenes that followed permitted no residue of doubt.Reuse content