[EURO 2012 PORTRAIT] For as long as John Terry has represented England and his club team Chelsea, two John Terrys have emerged: one who has mightily anchored their backlines for almost a decade, and the troubled star who repeatedly finds himself in the news for all the wrong reasons.
Newly hired England coach Roy Hodgson selected Terry and left out Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand for England’s Euro 2012 squad. Hodgson insists Ferdinand’s omission was purely, “for footballing reasons,” but many have speculated that the feud between the two over Terry’s alleged racial abuse of Ferdinand’s brotherAnton, who plays for the Queens Park Rangers, in November played a deciding role in Hodgson’s decision. The allegations of racial abuse, charges which Terry denies, overshadowed Terry’s play all season and followed him Ukraine this summer.
Terry is no stranger to controversy on and off the field. In January 2002, Terry and a few friends were charged with assault after a confrontation with a bouncer outside of a nightclub in London. As a result of the ensuing trial, Terry was dropped from England’s under-21 squad until he was ultimately cleared of the charges weeks later.
In the months leading up to the 2010 World Cup, rumors of an affair between Terry and his former Chelsea and England teammate Wayne Bridge’s girlfriend surfaced. Terry was stripped of his England captaincy, and then-coach Fabio Capello handed Rio Ferdinand the captain’s armband for the World Cup.
Terry holds the infamous distinction of being stripped of the England captaincy twice; as he was again removed as captain by the FA this past February due to the racial abuse allegation, for which he stands trial next month. (The FA's decision prompted Capello to quit.)
Most recently, Terry was red-carded in the second leg of the Champions League semifinals for kneeing Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez off the ball. This caused Terry to miss playing a part in Chelsea’s final victory over Bayern Munich.
Conduct aside, Terry remains the staunch, gritty defender he was when he broke into Chelsea’s starting 11 during the 2000-01 EPL season. A one-club man, Terry joined Chelsea’s youth team at 15 and by 18 he had made his first appearance with the senior side. Now 31, he has appeared more than 500 times for Chelsea, and has captained them more than 400 times. Terry, though a central defender, has scored 49 goals for Chelsea. He has also appeared 74 times for England since making his debut against Serbia & Montenegro in June 2003.
Despite Chelsea's sixth-place finish in the EPL this season, Terry was instrumental in anchoring an injury-plagued defense while partnering with Gary Cahill and David Luiz, who combined competently in the Champions League final win. (Cahill was forced off the England squad because of a a broken jaw suffered in a pre-tournament friendly and Hodgson decision to replace him with Liverpool youngster Martin Kelly instead of Rio Ferdinand reignited the debate about Ferdinand's omission.)
Terry’s consistent play through this year’s EPL season help shed light on the “footballing reasons” for why Hodgson chose Terry over Rio Ferdinand. At 33, Ferdinand battled a back injury this past season, and Hodgson and Ferdinand’s Manchester United coach Alex Ferguson both stated that they did not believe that Ferdinand could physically endure the possibility of six games in 21 days. Terry on the other hand has remained injury-free and able to maintain his form through the grueling EPL and Champions League schedules.
Despite Terry’s success this year on the field, Hodgson knows that Terry is the target of endless scrutiny by the fans and media alike, but says he's “convinced that John Terry is a person who can handle it.”
With a 1-1 draw against France to open Euro 2012, the jury is still out on the Terry-Ferdinand controversy. Terry and England as a whole capably defended against France’s talented and speedy attackers, but only time will tell if Hodgson brought the correct center back with him to Euro 2012. England's next test is Friday against co-host Ukraine.
Hodgson is certainly aware of the gravity of his selection, and there will always be uncertainty over which John Terry shows up to play for the Three Lions, the man Hodgson calls a warrior, or the temperamental defender with knack for finding trouble on and off the field.
"I'm just hoping John will show all the many qualities I have seen him show over the years in the Premier League and for England,” says Hodgson. “I'm hoping he will show them at this tournament."