Reviled and revered in various measure, but suddenly reinvigorated and relocated, the much-maligned John Terry has become a man noticeable solely by his very existence. "I think, therefore I am," as Descartes or Deschamps once put it.
'JT' has become a caricature of himself over the past decade, but there can be no doubt that Chelsea are a poorer side without him. Especially in this suddenly precious of all seasons when the prospect of snaring a first Premier League title since 2010 hovers tantalisingly on the horizon for Chelsea and their ilk.
An ongoing muscular injury forced Terry to miss the 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns. It was only the second league match he has sat out this season. His absence was Chelsea's most obvious shortcoming despite the ongoing issue of unreliable forwards represented on this occasion by a suitably shorn Samuel Eto'o, who has yet to score away from Stamford Bridge in the league.
Despite squandering two points, there is a reason why Jose Mourinho's side top the standings with a dozen matches remaining. Much of it comes down to a defence as miserable as the snowy weather that adorned the Black Country last night. Much of it comes down to the dependable form of Terry at the heart of that defence.
In normal circumstances, Terry's form should make him a certainty to play for England in this summer's World Cup finals in Brazil. But nothing revolving around Terry the man is normal. His general character, apparent lack of decorum and an ability to become embroiled in incident away from his main job description all tend to overshadow his standing as a truly world-class stopper.
Ahead of a friendly with Denmark next month, it is the reason why the England coach Roy Hodgson is expected to inform a rabid media on Wednesday that Terry will remain in international exile when his country fly to South America. For Terry and England, it is surely the end of the road. He will declare on 78 caps.
It has been an unwritten agreement between player and the Football Association since he stepped back from the fray around 18 months ago. It will irk Hodgson in his private moments that Terry seems to have discovered a new lease of life without his country.
On prime ability, Terry and Gary Cahill should be first choice for Chelsea and England.
Regrets he's had a few, but then again too many to mention. There are things in life that cannot be. Terry returning for England would bring a hassle, scrutiny and criticism to Hodgson's credibility in the national job that he does not need. Including Terry would send out a silent message that the England coach does not dare contemplate despite various media reports suggesting that he has spoken to the player about a return.
Jose Mourinho retrieves the ball during Chelsea's 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League.
"John Terry. We know what you are," sung to the tune of the Sloop John B is one of the favourite derogatory ditties aimed towards the Chelsea captain in recent years, referencing the infamous one-liner he apparently hurled at the then QPR player Anton Ferdinand during a Premier League match at Loftus Road a couple of seasons ago.
He was found not guilty of racist abuse in court only to be banned for four games by the FA and fined £220,000. The belief that he was hung out to dry by the FA after a court of law found in favour of him seems to be too much of a barrier to forgive and forget.
It has been a race to the bottom for Terry with England since that fateful day, but let us not get involved in the moral maze that analysing his personal attributes tends to become.
The tune at Chelsea on this Wednesday morning should be "John Terry. We knew what you were." He was missed. Not particularly by West Bromwich Albion supporters. Or their coach Pepe Mel. Or the West Brom substitute Victor Anichebe, who managed to unearth the equaliser weeks after a similar cameo role against Liverpool.
When David Luiz was found on his heels from the cross ball that enabled the home side to extract a point from a fairly raucous contest, it was difficult not to wonder if all this could have been avoided? If Terry had been party to these goings on, it would have been.
As we saw in the 1-0 win over Manchester City last week, there is nothing that Terry enjoys more than dealing with balls raining down on the top of him. There is nobody better at this type of warfare.
John Terry sports a top acknowledging the Football Association's 150th birthday.
Gary Cahill was hobbling with an injury sustained moments before Anichebe was allowed to come between Petr Cech and Luiz in sending Saido Berahino's cross into the rigging with three minutes remaining of normal time. The Cahill-Luiz partnership is never as convincing. Neither is Cahill and Phil Jagielka with England.
There are lies, damned lies and statistics, but then there are obvious truths.
Terry has played in 24 of 26 Premier League matches this season helping his side collect 10 points from a possible 12 against the league's top four sides at the heart of a four-way joust for supremacy. They have only conceded twice in those matches. Chelsea have shed only 21 goals, the best defensive record of any side in the Premier League.
Terry has made 27 interceptions, which is more than double the figure contributed by Cahill, who has played 19 times, five less than his club captain.
Terry also heads the list as the English central defender with the highest percentage of successful passes in the Premier League. Not bad for a man plagued by accusations of being a sluggish, one-dimensional carthorse.
His restoration as his country's best defender has been remarkable after a couple of years when suspension and injury saw him mocked for lifting the Champions League and Europa League trophies without playing in those finals. Now he can wear the blue shirt with pride.
Victor Anichebe celebrates scoring the equaliser in the 1-1 draw with Chelsea in the Premier League.
In a week when Mourinho accused the Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini of getting his sums wrong over the extent of Chelsea's largesse, the Portuguese coach could not work out the formula to collect three points without his captain.
“I don’t like to individualise,” said Mourinho. “If John is not here it’s not because we don’t want (him), it’s because he can’t (be here).
“Of course, he’s a big personality and it could have been different but maybe it wasn’t."
Mourinho had apparently almost become embroiled in a fight with the West Brom defender Jonas Olsson after a 2-2 draw in their previous meeting in November. Eden Hazard slotted a contentious late penalty to earn a point when defeat beckoned.
Call it karma perhaps that the home side struck late here for an unlikely draw. Mourinho had apparently branded Olsson and West Brom a 'Mickey Mouse' player and club in the tunnel. Without Terry, a man who has become a cartoonish villain at times, there would neither be any animated celebrations at The Hawthorns nor a four-point lead.
Many will question Mourinho's decision to snag Oscar for John Obi Mikel as Chelsea dropped further and further back as the game progressed with Branislav Ivanovic's opening goal late in the first half eventually proving too fragile to protect.
Whether or not he is needed or wanted by England, Terry remains the beating heart of Mourinho's side. He is captain, leader and legend to Chelsea's supporters. They know what he is. So does Hodgson.
Politics rather than the player is likely to ensure Terry will join Rio in missing Rio. Yet few will weep for too long over his absence.
- Sports & Recreation
- John Terry
- Premier League
- West Bromwich Albion
- Jose Mourinho