There isn’t much about the recent “tabloid revelations” concerning John Terry that don’t sink the heart somewhat. The allegations, the fact that it was his best friend, the coercion into an abortion, the money; all of it leaves the reader with the pronounced sense that truly we are living in the last days of Rome. It’s difficult to read more than a couple of paragraphs on the subject without starting to feel a little bit grubby and wishing that you were doing something a little bit more worthwhile with your time.
The John Terry affair, however, is obviously not as black and white as the tabloid press would have us believe, and it certain sticks in the craw to find oneself nodding in agreement with the wilder excesses of the scandal rags. It is well worth remembering that tabloid hacks care little for anything other than creating a story and milking it for everything that it is worth. It is also worth noting that the same level of opprobrium is often not levelled at players that have committed graver offences. After all, no matter how immoral and reprehensible John Terry’s behaviour may have been, it was not illegal and nowhere near as much criticism was levelled at, say, Ashley Cole, who was prosecuted for driving at 100mph in an area where the maximum speed limit was 50mph.
This, however, isn’t really an issue of morality. Plenty of players (and, indeed, managers) have had affairs and generally behaved reprehensively over the years and got away with it. The issue, therefore, becomes a subtly different one – an issue of his suitably to captain the Chelsea and England teams. The red tops, perhaps mindful of this, have peppered the articles that they have already published on the subject with emotive language on the extent to which Terry is becoming isolated by his “fellow pros”. How true is this, though? Is there really a revolt of revulsion that is starting to build amongst players against John Terry, or is this a story that has been calculated to create a storm in the full knowledge that it will be forgotten if no such storm is created?
There is, no doubt, plenty that can be levelled against John Terry which questions his suitability to be the captain of the national football team. Urinating on the dancefloor of a nightclub, gambling to excess, parking his car in disabled spaces ad having affairs may each be seen as either worse or as bad as anything that he has done and, ultimately, the decision over whether he should be replaced as the team captain (at Chelsea or with England) should be made by the respective coach, rather than by the editor of a daily newspaper. At Chelsea, it seems highly unlikely that Carlo Ancelotti (who, it must be said, is plenty experienced in dealing from within a siege mentality from his time at Milan) is going to relieve Terry of his duties:
That is his private life. This is about work. We don’t have to say anything because he’s very professional, a fantastic captain and he did a fantastic job for us. All of us at Chelsea support him and his family. I don’t have to manage anything. John has his private life. He has to control his private life. I have to control my team, He is a player in my team. He is the captain of this team and I am honoured and very proud to manage John Terry. Every game he plays, he plays very well and also tonight. He did the important part for us. John Terry is special. This was a difficult game and he scored a fantastic goal, which maybe could be the most important goal of the season.
Fabio Capello has had many words put into his mouth over the last couple of days or so, but has said very little so far on the matter. Capello is known as a disciplinarian, but he is also a pragmatist and will have to weigh up what Terry brings to the England captaincy that couldn’t be achieved by somebody else against the potential damage that could be caused to harmony within the squad before he makes the decision. There will doubtless be a good number of telephone calls made over the next few days, and those that do care in the slightest about the well-being of the England team can at least take some solace from the fact that there is probably no better coach that they could have than Capello to deal with such a situation.
This morning, the News of the World’s sister paper, The Sun, ran an “exclusive” story, relayed to them through “a friend”, about the feelings of Terry’s wife, Toni on the matter. The tabloid circus seems likely to continue to run for a few more days at least. Meanwhile, the rest of us look on at it all and shake our heads. Sometimes, it merely feels that if football wants our respect and our patronage, it has a funny way of showing it.