When the news broke that John Terry had decided to retire from international football my initial reaction, along with most of England’s, was without doubt one of shock. At the same time however, the news made me feel strangely happy. The term Schadenfreude springs to mind; it was nice to see a man unpopular with most football fans (myself included) have to give up playing for his country, all as a result of his off-field antics.
To say that John Terry is a ‘scumbag’ would be a very polite way to describe the man who brings with him such well-publicised baggage. However, before we all run off to Tesco to buy party poppers and silly cone hats to celebrate the beginning of the end for JT, I feel this news is no reason to celebrate; in fact, it’s quite the contrary.
Let us quickly forget about his indiscretions and consider John Terry, the player, not John Terry, the man. You don’t captain the best Premier League team ever (the 2004-05 Chelsea team that got 95 points), win a Champions League and earn 78 caps for your country if you’re a bad player. In fact, to say he is the one of the best and most devoted English centre backs of all time wouldn’t be an exaggeration. Need I remind you of his head-first dive attempt to block a shot against Slovenia? The media has created an idea that once a player is past 30, he can’t walk, let alone play football. I disagree completely. I would say at 30, players reach their physical peak. In 2008-09, for example, Nicolas Anelka scored more goals in a season than he had ever done previously. On top of this, players in the 30+ bracket have a considerable amount of experience, something that can’t be overlooked, especially at international level where games aren’t so frequent.
I know people will argue that he is a controversial character and with him ruled out of selection there will be greater squad harmony. Pardon the cliché but John Terry is a born leader. While at an England game I was lucky enough to sit so close I could hear the players talking to each other. Actually, let me rephrase that: I was lucky enough to sit so close I could hear John Terry constantly barking orders at the rest of the defence. Surely his quality and leadership on the pitch outweighs any dressing room debate he brings?
There have been a few journalists and pundits that have tried to predict England’s team for the 2014 world cup. Out of the many potential teams that have been proposed, only a select few contained Terry with most choosing Cahill and Phil Jones instead. I completely agree the likes of Sterling and Oxlade-Chamberlain should be featuring in the England scene but it seems we are becoming obsessed about replacing our current team with the ‘next generation’. We have created an idea in England that younger is always better. I however have not completely bought into the idea and John Terry could not have made it to Rio.
In the most recent major international tournaments, the players that seem to shine are those with a lot of international experience. Out of the 23 players in UEFA’s teams of Euro 2012, 7 were aged 30 or above. Come the knockout stages, younger players need an experienced head to help lead. Would Italy have made the final of the Euros without the 33-year-old Andrea Pirlo dictating play? A 33-year-old Fabio Cannavaro was integral to the Italy team that won the world cup in 2006. So barring a Jamie Carragher-esque return to international football, come 2014 John Terry will be sat at home watching the matches. All at the tender age of 33.