John Terry: The incredible highs and lows of a legend

Very few footballers have graced the back page of newspapers and been smeared over the front of them in quite the same unison as John Terry.

Across a football career which has, up until this point, always been at Chelsea Football Club for the two decades of its entirety, Terry has achieved incredible feats on the pitch – embodying the club and the passion of its fans. He is the only player to remain at Stamford Bridge from the side that brought the league title there after a 50-year wait and has been the sole survivor from that 2005 team since Frank Lampard departed.

Yet, due to off the pitch scandals, praise for the former England captain and current Chelsea skipper’s exceptional career has often been muted in mainstream media. However, the announcement that Terry will be leaving the club at which he has established himself a true legend of, come the end of the season, has given many – including us at Life After Football – the chance to look back on some of the highs and lows of his career.

When the one-club man played for someone else…

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Terry is, of course, famous for being a ‘one club man,’ with Chelsea being the only team he has represented – something that bar his loan spell at Nottingham Forest, looked to be the way it would always be until the recent news. However, that spell as a youngster at Forest is often forgotten by many, but it was there where a young JT really established himself after moving to the City Ground shortly after making his Chelsea debut.

A good showing out on loan led to more first-team appearances for his parent club, where he would form a strong defensive partnership with Marcel Desailly. When the legendary Frenchman retired in 2004, Terry would take his captain’s armband and truly make it his own, leading the club to that long-awaited Premier League title under the guidance of Josè Mourinho – a man who would be pivotal in the number 26’s career.

“Thank you doesn’t seem enough. The Very Best I have ever worked with, unbelievable memories together.” – John Terry on Josè Mourinho

With ‘The Special One’ at the helm, Chelsea Football Club began the most successful period in their history. Back to back Premier League titles in 2005 and 2006 were the result of one of the most dominant teams England has ever seen, built on a rock solid defence which Terry held together with his strength, composure and intelligent reading of the game. When Mourinho left in a shock exit in 2007, the foundations he laid were built upon even more with Carlo Ancelotti bringing silverware to the Bridge – another incredible manager who Terry has worked under – and perhaps the crowning moment of the modern Chelsea, the Champions League-winning side of 2012.

Temporary boss, Roberto Di Matteo was in charge of that side which upset odds to go all the way to glory in a memorable European campaign. A poor domestic season meant that very few people fancied Chelsea and their inexperienced manager to pull off such a feat – a feat they had failed at the final hurdle in 2008.

The 2008 Champions League final is surely the most painful on-pitch memory of Terry’s lengthy career. A tight game against rivals, Manchester United, went all the way to a penalty shootout on a rainy, evening in Moscow that was watched by the whole world. It seems the stars had aligned as Terry, Mr Chelsea, himself, had the chance to clinch the game for his team, tasked with netting the winning penalty. The world held it’s breath as he stepped up, approaching that famous starred football. As he struck the ball he slipped, mishitting the potentially greatest strike of a football in his entire life – as it hit the post he hit the floor and the pictures of a teary John Terry that night still haunt many Chelsea fans as United went on to lift Europe’s biggest prize.

Four years on, the pain was different for Terry. Suspension meant that he would miss the final against Bayern Munich, making him unable to play in the biggest game of Chelsea’s history. It was a famous night in Munich, as Drogba’s heroics secured the trophy for the club – the first in their history. But, after playing such a pivotal role in their route to the final, no one was going to take the moment away from Terry – not a teammate and certainly not himself. Donned in full Chelsea kit, Terry lifted the enormous trophy aloft despite having not kicked a ball in the final. He was criticised by some for doing so, perhaps too harshly, but it was a fitting moment for a man who had given so much to the club and was desperate to kill the demons of what had occurred four years previous.

But there were far bigger demons in his career than missed penalties. The saga involving him having an affair with a teamate’s wife caught enormous press attention, turning a number of his fellow professionals against him. For every good quote of Terry as a player, there are several negative ones about the controversial man, himself. The biggest blot of all on his legacy is the issue in 2012 involving Anton Ferdinand, the brother of his England teammate Rio. After a match versus QPR, Terry was accused of racially abusing his opponent – the media storm he was to face was both unsurprising and deserved. Fined almost a quarter of a million pounds and banned for a spell of four games which seems minor in hindsight, the by this point ex-England captain had been disgraced once more.

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These achievements mixed with criticism represent his dramatic career perfectly, as horrors of affairs and legal trouble have provided a shadow to Terry’s glimmering actions on the football pitch. But, with 4 Premier League winners’ medals, 5 FA Cups, a Champions League, a Europa League and 78 England caps to his name, few can begrudge what a special player the Chelsea captain is. No defender has scored more Premier League goals than him, nor has any kept more clean sheets than him.

For all the talk of Tery off the pitch, the only talk of him on it can be positive, as we wait to hear where the next and possibly final chapter of his career will take him.