Chelsea captain John Terry has reiterated that he has no problem with Rafael Benitez and he understands he is no longer a certainty to be selected among the starting XI.
There have been reports over the weekend of a rift between the 32-year-old defender and the interim manager, with Benitez apparently blaming Terry for Chelsea’s 3-2 defeat at Newcastle earlier this month.
Terry strenuously denies the rumours but admits his frustration at being unable to show Benitez what he is capable of, report The Evening Standard.
Rumours of a disagreement have rumbled on for some time with Terry named among the substitutes for six of Chelsea’s last nine matches prior to yesterday’s 4-0 victory over Brentford that earned the Blues an FA Cup fifth-round clash at Middlesbrough on Wednesday week.
Terry is widely acknowledged as an influential figure in the dressing room after nearly 15 years as a senior player at the club. But the former England captain insists his omission from the team is a consequence of the need to carefully manage his return from a knee injury and the form of centre-backs Branislav Ivanovic and Gary Cahill, rather than any issue with Benitez.
“I’m not silly, I’ve been out for four months — the other two guys have been playing really well, both scoring as well, so it is going to be difficult for me to get back in,” said Terry.
“People speak about me being upset. Naturally I want to play games. The manager doesn’t need to ask me that question to know what answer he is going to get. I am not one to go in and knock the manager’s door down. I respect the other players.
“David [Luiz] can sit back in there as well so I have to fight for my place, the same as everyone. I think it is important that comes across from me directly. When you are playing for 10 years you don’t just get selected. You have to play well, train well and impress managers. The most frustrating thing was that when Rafa came in, I wasn’t fit and I wasn’t able to impress him and show what I am about.
“I was sitting in the dressing room, looking out of the window looking at the lads training. I have got a bit of catching up to do. He has not seen me at 100 per cent. I still need a couple of games, that is clear. But if I am called upon all I can do is come in and play well. But 100 per cent, there is no rift, the team spirit is great and no one can affect that. We have always had a good mentality and that will always remain.”
Terry did, however, reveal his frustration at what he describes the toughest injury setback of his career, particularly after early scans suggested he would be out for only three weeks.
Having previously developed a reputation for playing through pain, Terry was advised that only rest would cure ligaments strained in an awkward collision with Liverpool striker Luis Suarez at Stamford Bridge in November.
“It was a strange injury because the knee hyper-extended back and it stretched all the ligaments at the front and both sides of the knee,” said Terry. “It just needed time and that came to light after three or four weeks.
“It is not about pushing and wanting to play when the medical team are saying ‘listen, you need a bit more time.’ I felt the stiffness and it still wasn’t right after four weeks so I just remained patient. It has been tough for me because it is the first time in my career that I’ve had an injury that has kept me out for so long.”
Chelsea fans continued to observe the 16th-minute vigil for sacked manager Roberto di Matteo but there was minimal invective aimed at Benitez despite the team making arduous work of seeing off Brentford.
Terry claimed Benitez must accept the pressures that come with the manager’s position but admitted only positive results will change the atmosphere among supporters. “It is not about Rafa, me or Frank Lampard, it is not about anybody,” said Terry. “It is about this football club winning games and if we are doing that, the fans are happy. That’s all they want to see. If that’s with me in the side, great, if not, then I will be their biggest supporter and I’ll sit there and support the team like the fans will.
“If you are losing games, the pressure is on the manager. He has to take responsibility because he is the one who picks the team. So if we are not [winning], as with all managers, it falls on his head, unfortunately. But if we are winning games, and hopefully we can do that, it takes the pressure off him.”