“The way John Terry celebrated his goal”, began an apparently enraged caller to BBC’s 606 show on Five Live yesterday evening, “was a total disgrace. Pointing to his armband like that is an obvious insult to Fabio Capello, and he shouldn’t go to the World Cup”. As it turned out, the caller was a Stoke City supporter, whose credibility started low as he kicked-off his rant and plummeted further as he went on to assert that Chelsea were a “bad side” and that Stoke had deserved to win the game.
Spoony and Marcotti quickly put him in his place, but the bile he had already spewed about John Terry was as remarkable as it was unfounded. This morning’s papers seem confused, too.
Pretty much all of the broadsheets agree that the ongoing abuse from Stoke fans (some of it probably went a little too far) ‘got to’ John Terry, but there is some disagreement in their interpretation. Matt Hughes of the Times, for example, takes a negative view, suggesting that “the Chelsea Captain clearly remains bitter about being demoted” and that “others would have shrugged off such mindless abuse, but Terry’s skin is not the thickest”. Jason Burt of the Telegraph half agrees: “Terry can be forced into a reaction – as he was when fouling Fuller… He is not exactly on edge but there is a taughtness to his game”.
Dominic Fifield of the Guardian sees how the abuse ‘got to’ Terry differently, however. “John Terry has made his point, the visitors mustering themselves in pursuit of an equaliser, when Chelsea’s talisman barged himself into space at Frank Lampard’s corner to thump in the goal. His display for England was made to look more assured by…Matthew Upson…but he was more ruggedly impressive here”.
Which to believe? No-one can deny that John Terry ‘reacted’ yesterday – but do we characterise that reaction negatively? Personally, I can’t see how. He was markedly better than previous outings against Man City and Inter, and there was nothing uncontrolled, nothing ruffled, about his performance yesterday. Aside from his 10 second celebration at having scored Chelsea’s second, it was a calm, measured and professional showing from the Chelsea captain. If he was thin-skinned, as Hughes suggests, then a strong performance, culminating in a goal and an assist, surely wouldn’t have been the result.
In reality however, a vintage performance wasn’t required from Terry. Contrary to the assertions of the Stoke supporter on 606, Pullis’ men rarely troubled Chelsea outside of the first twenty minutes, the Blues having 62% possession and managing eight shots on goal to Stoke’s two. Alex and Ivanovic were excellent throughout, Ferreira showed he can cross with his left foot better than he can with his right and Mikel – who divides opinion – again showed that his distribution has greatly improved during his recent run in the first team. Lampard was excellent, dictating the play with ease and getting on the scoresheet in the process.
Chelsea’s form of late has been bad, and yesterday’s victory – against a team significantly less able away from home and via two deflections - isn’t enough to show that the team have even started to turn a corner. But it goes to show that, even out of form and in the face of a very significant injury list, when Chelsea manager to muster their now-characteristic defiant and professional mood they are still very hard to beat.
And as for John Terry: well, he of course remains very difficult to like – or respect – as a person. As a footballer however, he is a player with few equals (the recent headlines have granted carte blanche to his critics to lay into him unfairly on this front). Yesterday, against a good Stoke side whose brand of football is often misrepresented, he wasn’t man-of-the-match, but was a matchwinner. And if that means ‘thin-skinned’, then the definition of the phrase should be scrapped.
How did you rate John Terry's performance - and Chelsea's? Were you at the game - what did you think of the Stoke fans' berating of the Chelsea captain - too far or fair game? And Stoke fans - what did you think? Please post a comment...