John Terry has timed this one beautifully. Like his tackle on Tottenham’s Son Heung-min in the first minute of the Battle of the Bridge, there was only going to be one winner.
However the talks have unfolded between Terry and Chelsea over the last few days over the one-year contract extension that he signed on Wednesday, there is little doubt who had the stronger hand around the table.
No club should be dictated to by its supporters - that would cause all manner of problems - but as the lifeblood they have to be listened to. And the powers-that-be would have to have been locked in the Stamford Bridge corner flag cupboard on Sunday not to have noticed a wee bit of support for Terry around the stadium.
There was a chant of Terry’s name from the Matthew Harding Stand as he took his place in the Chelsea guard of honour for the title-winning Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri. The moment was the Italian’s - but Terry waved and offered a quick round of applause.
And then, of course, there was the 26th-minute standing ovation for Chelsea’s captain, leader, legend complete with A4 cards held up with “26 John Terry” printed on them. Terry, sat among the Chelsea substitutes due to his suspension, could have passed this off with a quick wave. But no, he milked it to perfection: waited for the song to build, stood slowly, applauded all four stands, beat his club badge on his chest, looked emotional. There’s no doubt he was, who wouldn’t be with 30-odd thousand people singing your name? But he played it liked a fiddle. The match was in play, but no matter, this moment was about him, not the football.
At the end of the game, he took the microphone and spoke to the fans: “Chelsea is my life, as it is yours. The best moments of my life have been in this stadium…We've had some great times…Thank you for the support…On a personal note, I'd like to thank everyone…This season's been tough for me, very emotional… So, thank you.”
The tears rolled, Roman Abramovich applauded wildly. The crowd had already broken into: “We want you to stay, we want you to stay, John Terry, we want you to stay” before he’d even begun his speech. He wanted to stay, they wanted him to stay. The only potential bad guys in this whole scenario was the club. If Antonio Conte, the incoming manager, wanted to start afresh without such a powerful figure - albeit a brilliant defender still - in the dressing room, tough.
Terry had already reacted to the club announcing last Friday that there was an offer on the table by making sure that everyone knew that the deal comprised a “different role”. That did not come from the club and, of course, Terry could have signed it straight away and Chelsea could have announced a done deal. Instead, he waited until after the Bridge love-in and the power shift.
If there was anything he didn't like about the “different role” - including the reported 50 per cent wage cut - he could argue from a position of strength over the last few days.
And it was not just this part of the narrative Terry has controlled. The fact that there was no offer on the table in the first place was disclosed by the defender, not the club, at the start of the year. The stand-off began then.
Terry is a one-club man. But he knows how to look after one man.
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