A scandal even Terry cannot kick aside

From accusations he tried to cash in on his captaincy, to allegations that his father offered reporters cocaine, the England captain has weathered many storms. But this one will cost him dear

Sam Wallace
Saturday 30 January 2010 01:00
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In the past John Terry has been able to escape the consequences of his many transgressions by virtue of his status as one of the best defenders in the world, but yesterday it finally looked like his mistakes were catching up with him.

Last night there was no real appetite within the Football Association or Fabio Capello's group of advisers to sack their England captain for his alleged affair with a team-mate's girlfriend, but those making that decision are aware that this is only the start. The spotlight upon Terry will be intense in the months leading up to the World Cup finals and it will take a very determined stance to ignore the clamour for his sacking.

The failure of Terry's lawyers' injunction to protect him from what could be one of the biggest scandals in recent memory is just the start of it. The job of England captain does not require the incumbent to lead a blameless life but it does oblige him to keep clear of scandals that could affect his team – and right now the fallout from Terry's alleged affair with Wayne Bridge's girlfriend Vanessa Perroncel is monstrous. It is the last thing Capello needs in the five months before a World Cup finals.

Never the most popular England captain, Terry is considered by many of the England players to be needlessly flash. He is regarded as the kind of person who has to have the best car, the biggest house and the most expensive watch. Now, however, there is a much more serious question mark alongside his capacity to lead England into the World Cup finals in June.

There is a feeling among many England players that Terry has simply crossed the line in his purported affair with Perroncel. There is not much that passes for a moral code among the young wealthy men who earn millions as Premier League footballers but Terry has still managed to break it with his latest claimed transgression. There are no indications of outright rebellion among the players but the notion that he can be regarded as their leader is now regarded as a joke.

For the FA, the likely media firestorm that will pursue Terry, especially in the build-up to England's next game against Egypt on 3 March, is nightmarish. The England captain is required to speak to the press before and after every game and the intensity of the focus upon him will dwarf even the furore that accompanied Sven Goran Eriksson's relationships.

That is before Capello factors in Bridge's attitude towards Terry. The Manchester City left-back is only Ashley Cole's understudy in the England squad but it is understood that he wants nothing to do with Terry, much less to play in the same team. There is sympathy for Bridge among his team-mates. Put simply, it is the captain who is the problem and that is a disastrous position for any team to find themselves in.

Capello has never had any doubts about Terry as a player; in fact he could scarcely have made a better choice, given the run of nine wins in World Cup qualifying and Terry's key role in them. The Italian is understood to have rather more misgivings about his captain as a person. Like many others around Chelsea and England he has found it impossible to ignore the apparent flaws in Terry's character.

Terry's blatant attempts to cash in on the England captaincy have not gone unnoticed, most notably the crass email from a marketing consultancy in Billericay touting Terry for commercial deals that was sent to everyone in English football including the FA, which Terry said was circulated without his permission. There was the News of the World sting that caught Terry giving tours of the Chelsea training ground, apparently for £10,000 in cash. Chelsea accepted that Terry did not receive cash in return for the tour.

All of these chronic misjudgements were compounded by other lesser examples of Terry's arrogance. Against the FA's wishes he signed up for an exclusive column with The Sun, going to the newspaper's offices personally with his wife, Toni, and two children to negotiate the deal. He has also booked his family into South Africa's Sun City for the World Cup, although it is Capello's preference that the players' families avoid the resort because they do not want another paparazzi circus.

Terry grew up in the same rough area of Barking, east London, as his most celebrated predecessor as England captain, Bobby Moore. His parents, Ted and Sue, eventually separated but not before he had become one of the most sought after schoolboy footballers in the country, courted by Manchester United. When he signed for Chelsea they moved him into digs with the scout who signed him, Bob Orsborn.

Terry's early years as a professional at Chelsea were marked by his court case for affray at the Wellington Club, a nightclub in west London, in which he was eventually acquitted. After that he changed agents and signed up with Aaron Lincoln, formerly the kitman at Chelsea who had got to know Terry well as he developed from a YTS kid to Chelsea first-team player.

Lincoln established himself as one of the best agents in the business and protected Terry as best he could from the attentions of the tabloid newspapers. It was no easy task. In 2004 and 2005 Sunday tabloids ran around four kiss-and-tell claims from different women on Terry, whose then fiancée, now wife, Toni, stood by him. Lincoln made sure that Terry had bluechip lawyers and accountants working on his behalf as well as the services of the public relations guru Mark Bolland.

It is some irony that Lincoln also represents Bridge, who was recommended to him by Terry – as was the former Chelsea striker Eidur Gudjohnsen. As of the summer Terry dispensed with Lincoln's services, shortly before he used Manchester City's interest in him to leverage a new contract at Chelsea worth £170,000 a week. It would appear to be no coincidence that many of the England captain's major gaffes have come since he split from Lincoln.

Terry has never been a poster boy for good behaviour and even when he was under Lincoln's protection he was still – as the tabloids like to say – a serial love rat. He was caught urinating on the floor of a nightclub at a boozy birthday party for Shaun Wright-Phillips and parking his Bentley in a disabled parking bay in the Surrey town of Cobham that is home to Chelsea's training ground.

His mother, Sue, was allegedly caught stealing a trolley of shopping from, among other places, Marks and Spencer – an FA sponsor – with his mother-in-law last year and accepted a police caution. His father, Ted, could face prosecution for reportedly selling cocaine to an undercover News of the World reporter. It has not been a great year for the Terrys.

To put it mildly, Terry has always been a bit of a handful but when he walked into the Marylebone Landmark hotel in August 2006 as David Beckham's successor as England captain there was no doubting he had come a long way. When Capello had the same auditions 18 months later and Terry came out on top again over Rio Ferdinand, another player whose sexual indiscretions have come back to haunt him, his place in the England team seemed untouchable.

Both Ferdinand and Steven Gerrard will now be wondering whether there is a chance that they will be leading out England against the United States in Rustenburg in their first World Cup game on 12 June. With the intense pressure from the media and Terry's own team-mates less than supportive, it would appear that there is no other way Capello will be able to put this fire out.

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