Terry has look of England captain in waiting

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How swiftly the perception has changed. The "Tall Portuguese" syndrome, no doubt. From a character who was a "breath of fresh air" midway through the season, Jose Mourinho is now being asked to accept primary responsibility for a fetid atmosphere within Stamford Bridge.

How swiftly the perception has changed. The "Tall Portuguese" syndrome, no doubt. From a character who was a "breath of fresh air" midway through the season, Jose Mourinho is now being asked to accept primary responsibility for a fetid atmosphere within Stamford Bridge.

The Chelsea manager was implicated in the "tapping up" of Arsenal's Ashley Cole, stands accused of being an "enemy of the game" by an authoritative Uefa refereeing voice and represents a club charged with "buying" the Premiership - even though the starting 11 who accounted for West Bromwich cost around £105m, roughly the same as the Manchester United team who began against Southampton. Yet, even if he was guilty of all the indictments against him, no one could dispute this most impressive piece of mitigation: that he has enhanced the English talent at his disposal.

If Chelsea do progress to a first championship in half a century it will not be so much that their owner's roubles have enabled them to acquire the title - a specious jibe that should not go uncorrected - it is because they possess a backbone of Petr Cech, John Terry, Claude Makelele and Frank Lampard, all of whom have prospered under the management of Mourinho, alongside a trio of English players, Joe Cole, Wayne Bridge and Glen Johnson. All were in residence when Mourinho arrived, and all have improved under his stewardship.

It is Mourinho who must accept a significant proportion of the credit if the home-nurtured Terry claims the Footballer of the Year award, although the Chelsea captain would have to defy a trend which dictates against dogged defenders. The last of his ilk to claim the accolade was Kenny Burns in 1978. One suspects that will change when the vote is cast this year, and yield yet another honour to decorate Terry's home, together with those already secured by this Blue-blooded Tony Adams.

But there is also a forceful argument that suitable recognition should also be forthcoming from the England coach, Sven Goran Eriksson; and not merely as an automatic selection at centre-back, but as captain, too. The choice is yours, Sven: a young, inspirational, indefatigable, captain of the old school, or a celebrity in decline? A player who is generally even-tempered and is rarely liable to lapses of temperament, or one whose name is synonymous with that failing? One who observes the team from a prime vantage point, the rear, or one who tends to be preoccupied with his own role?

The irony is that the Chelsea captain is not even certain to make the England team when Sol Campbell and Rio Ferdinand are fit, although by any standards his club form, not least that herculean performance against Barcelona when his winning goal earned Chelsea a quarter-final Champions' League tie against Bayern Munich, decrees that he should. In contrast, David Beckham's replacement as captain is problematic, because Eriksson refuses to contemplate the fact that the Real Madrid player is anything but an automatic choice in his line-up.

If there was one aspect of the Chelsea that Mourinho was bequeathed by Claudio Ranieri which must have appealed to him, it was the presence of Terry, that Anglo-Saxon yeoman. "This year, the team spirit is spot-on and that's down to the captain and how he gets us all together," says Joe Cole of Terry, who has emerged under Mourinho a leader personified, and still only 24 at that.

In a sense, Terry perfectly complements the more cynical Mourinho. It reminds one of what George Graham used to say of his talisman, Adams: "Thank God, he's my captain." Mourinho must offer similar prayers to the heavens about a player whose heart pumps no less powerfully.

Will Eriksson one day harbour similar thoughts about Terry? Maybe not next Saturday against Northern Ireland in the World Cup qualifier at Old Trafford, although Terry looks a certain starter, with Campbell still injured. But ultimately, and once the Beckham era is complete, the Swede should look no further.

Joe Cole is another who has profited from a season under Mourinho. A series of mature exhibitions have marked the midfielder down once again as a performer of international potential. Again, Mourinho has ensured that the progression of a player, still only 23 and whose early introduction at West Ham was possibly too explosive for his own good, has been gradual under his charge.

Such are the qualities of the Chelsea manager which tend to be ignored in the rush to demonise him. Before joining that throng, it would useful to consider this recent observation by a rival manager: "I don't think it was possible to win anything today with the man in black." With that, and other comments in his post-match TV interview, Tottenham's Martin Jol came close to implying that the referee Rob Styles was a "homer" following the FA Cup defeat at Newcastle.

Jol's words were swiftly forgotten. Can you imagine the brouhaha if they had been uttered by Mourinho in Europe? From time immemorial, managers have blamed officials' actions for defeats. It is not an attractive facet of the game, although it is part of the theatre of our national sport. But were Mourinho's words in the wake of the defeat in Barcelona more extreme than those Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsène Wenger and Jol have declared after a controversial match?

The Uefa refereeing chief, Volker Roth, evidently believes so. Commenting on the resignation of the Swedish official Anders Frisk - ostensibly because of death threats following the game at the Nou Camp - he is quoted as saying: "It's the coaches who whip up the masses and actually make them threaten people with death. People like Mourinho are the enemy of football." To Uefa's credit, they have belatedly distanced themselves from Herr Roth's absurd pronouncement, with their director of communications stating: "Uefa have never said that Mourinho caused Frisk to resign. This is a big logical jump. All we're saying is that some statements from managers and players are misconstrued by the public at large who are not mentally stable."

Presumably he means an element of "the public at large"? Because that's what this is about; a small number of feeble-brained individuals who yearn to influence history in their own pathetic way. In bygone days, they would have had to resort to posting the relevant newspaper cuttings to Uefa's headquarters in Geneva, probably complete with crude, mis-spelt, green-inked observations on Frisk's performance. Today, computer technology and mobile phone texting mean they can get much closer to the man who is the culprit, at least in their jaundiced eyes.

Sadly, Frisk's retirement will only encourage others with similar misplaced and irrational grievances. Which is not to blame him for taking the option he has; though neither should anyone contend that Mourinho should bear responsibility. He has suffered death threats himself, while at Porto, and will understand the Swede's dilemma. The guilty are those who issue such menacing messages. Not a manager whom we once so admired for his candour, but who of late has become, in some minds, just a little too honest for his own good.

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