John Terry has to go.
1 – The role model thing
Generally speaking, I don’t buy into this. Decent behaviour ought to be a minimum requirement of all human beings, whatever their job or celebrity status, but I don’t expect professional footballers to set the moral tone for anyone and no amount of money obliges them to do so. Ditto for musicians, film stars and, yes, even politicians (so long as this last group stay away from the preachy stuff – shove ‘back to basics’ down our throats and you’re fair game).
Whenever I read a hack making claims as to how the behaviour of player X will influence our children, I ask myself if they even have the first clue why some kids dream of becoming professional footballers? It’s certainly got nothing to do with money, the women, the celebrity lifestyle enjoyed by the very best. It’s the game, stupid. The cheeky cockney urchins who idolise John Terry aren’t interested in what car he drives or where he buys his suits (they certainly don’t care where he gets his hair cut). He’s the captain of their team and recognised as one of the best there is at his job, and his job is playing football and that’s what these kids love. It’s really very uncomplicated.
I don’t know if the required stats have been gathered, but I’ll wager the kids who worshipped Gazza in the early nineties are not now displaying a disproportionate tendency to alcoholism. The parents who worry about the influence footballers have on their little darlings would do better to focus their attention on providing the moral guidance in the place kids ought to expect to receive it; in the home. If you are genuinely concerned that your little Jonny will grow up to be a womanizing drunk, then you must be doing a pretty shite job as a parent.
So why is it different this time? Simply put, Terry is England captain. In terms of his role model status, we’re no longer thinking about the children (some of us never were). As captain, he is our representative on the world stage, the guy who speaks at press conferences by the manager’s side, who leads the team out, who might even collect the big prize this summer. He would, ordinarily, be expected to play a pivotal role in England’s bid to host the World Cup in 2018. He can’t do any of this if he is a laughing stock. And whilst the chants will eventually die away (“Ashley, Watch your wife, Ashley, Ashley, Watch your wife!”), the stains (of which there are more than a few – see below) will remain.
2 – The track record
Terry’s has a record longer than John Dillinger.
On Sep 11th 2001, Chelsea were due to fly out to Bulgaria for a European match. The flight was cancelled and Terry and 3 other players spent the evening getting hammered in a Heathrow hotel where they abused and mocked stranded US travellers. They were fined by the club.
In February 2002 Terry was fit to burst after visiting the Time and Envy nightclubs in Romford, Essex. He told friends he needed the toilet but that an injured toe was bothering him – so whipped out his manhood, urinated into a beer glass and dropped it on the floor. Security staff saw the incident on CCTV and escorted the player off the premises.
Last December Terry was accused of taking £10,000 from undercover reporters in return for a private tour of Chelsea’s training ground.
And there’s the gambling, the string of sexual indiscretions and numerous car-related incidents. In another age, Terry wouldn’t have got within a 100 miles of the national team captaincy.
And now we discover that a couple of months back he knocked up his ex team-mate and good friend’s ex and paid for her to have an abortion. Whether Wayne Bridge and his former girlfriend had actually split before Terry began filling his boots we’ll probably never know for certain. But what would you think if you were Wayne Bridge?
3. The team harmony
Wayne Bridge is an England squad player. He’s not a cert for the plane to South Africa but now that he’s due to return from a two month lay-off, he’ll go close if he stays fit. It will be difficult enough with a squad that contains the cuckold and his cuckolder, but if Terry were relieved of the captaincy it would at least demonstrate that Bridge’s feelings on the matter were worth tuppence and would go some way to relieving the inevitable tension that will exist between the two camps. And you better believe there will be two camps. Bridge is, by all accounts, an extremely popular member of his club team and the England squad. With no sanction on Terry, it’s difficult to see how those players close to Bridge can maintain any semblance of respect for their captain. More to the point, why should they?
The role of England captain is as much ceremonial as it is anything to do with leading on the pitch. Leaders will lead without captains’ armbands and Terry is a leader. Assuming the problems above can be sorted, Terry should still go to South Africa and England will be better for his presence. Gerrard or Rooney or Ferdinand can walk out first, flick the coin and have their picture taken with the mascots. Terry can continue to snarl and rant and drive the team forward.
Terry is already extremely fortunate that this guy and this guy, better players both, were never able to stay fit for more than 17 minutes at a time. He’s had more caps than he ought to, although he developed into a far better player than I used to give him credit for. But his luck just ran out.
In more than one way, he just crossed a bridge.
Gene adds: It appears Brownie’s post has already got results.