Why Chelsea legend John Terry should not taint his football legacy by dropping down to the Championship

Chelsea legend John Terry is a free agent
Chelsea legend John Terry is a free agent

Captain. Leader. Legend. Three words which have followed John Terry and come to define the Chelsea skipper’s career at Stamford Bridge. Yet this summer he will be without a contract for the first time.

Terry, at 36 and past his peak, has a big decision to make. What will his next move be? Harry Redknapp, now in charge at Championship side Birmingham City, has made no secret of the fact he has offered the former England captain a contract for next season.

But is a swansong in the Championship being given the runaround by Marvin Sordell a fitting end to a glittering career? Our friends at Football Whispers answer that question.

Seven hundred and thirty-seven Chelsea appearances. Seventeen trophies lifted. Seventy-eight England caps. These aren’t the numbers of your average Championship player. But that is exactly what Terry could be next season.

Talk of an offer from the Premier LeagueBournemouth and West Bromwich Albion were reportedly keen at one stage – has gone quiet. Terry now appears to be facing up to going from the champions of England to the Championship.

Given he only made six Premier League starts for Antonio Conte’s side it should be little surprise top-flight teams aren’t falling over themselves to make him an offer. But the glamour of signing a former England captain and serial Premier League winner should, on its own, be a pull for a lot of clubs.

Yet is isn’t. Perhaps they saw some of Terry’s displays last season. He looked every one of his 36 years, most notably in the win over a hapless Watford side who somehow scored three against a mix-and-match Blues line-up days after clinching the Premier League title.

Terry was all at sea that evening at Stamford Bridge and his uncharacteristically poor decision making enabled Etienne Capoue to level for the visitors at a time when they’d barely had a sniff. If there was any doubt about Conte’s decision not to retain Terry it was gone in that moment.

Terry can no longer perform at the highest level. Of that there is no doubt. His mobility leaves him vulnerable in a back four and the days of playing twice a week are behind him. He would only be of use performing the Ledley King role of playing when able and putting his feet up in the week.

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But is that what a once great warrior wants? Terry is, in his nature, a fierce competitor. It’s what has driven him to put his body – quite literally on multiple occasions – on the line for the Blues for the past 19 seasons. Anything less would be like watching a caged lion. You know and appreciate what they could do but there’s a sadness behind the eyes as they realise they are unable to do it anymore.

Besides, it has rarely worked out for other legends who drop down the league. When Rio Ferdinand traded Manchester United for Queens Park Rangers in his final season as a pro he went from a glistening Rolls Royce of a defender to a written-off Vauxhall Corsa in the space of 11 games. Without Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra and Real Madrid transfer target David de Gea around him, Ferdinand’s decline was accelerated and a fine career ended on the substitutes’ bench at Loftus Road with the R’s relegated.

Terry signed off with a Premier League win
Terry signed off with a Premier League win

Teddy Sheringham did something similar, signing for Championship minnows Colchester United as a 42-year-old after leaving West Ham United. However, injury ended his career ‘prematurely’ in 2008 after just 11 league outings and three goals for the U’s.

Robbie Fowler, another fine English striker of his day, tried in vain to prolong his career with a spell at second-tier Cardiff City and a brief sojourn with Blackburn Rovers under old pal Paul Ince. The net result was four league goals in two seasons for the man Liverpool fans called ‘God’.

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But that isn’t Terry’s only option. He can bow out now with his dignity intact, a winner, while preserving his one-club man status – if a loan spell at Nottingham Forest can be glossed over.

After all, this has been a season of retirements with Bayern Munich pair Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso calling time on glittering careers. Like Terry, neither man had anything to prove and little need, financially, to play on. Serial winners on the club scene, each has a World Cup winners’ medal to boot. Both were afforded gracious and warm send-offs by the Bayern supporters and will be remembered as classy servants for the Bavarian giants.

Terry’s last memories of playing football professionally could be saying goodbye to his adoring crowd at Stamford Bridge, Premier League trophy in hand, winners’ medal around his neck. Or it could be losing at Burton Albion on a cold Tuesday evening in January. It’s a no-brainer really.


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