John Terry: One more year, forever

The reaction to formerly great players reaching the end of their careers can be a little strange in this country.

This week, John Terry announced that Chelsea would not be renewing his contract and that he would be leaving the club at the end of the season. There seems to be a slight ambiguity and there is a vague suggestion that that situation is subject to change but, as things stand, this will be Terry’s final dance in the Premier League.

It’s reasonable: Terry is an ageing centre-half who is beyond his physical prime and, while it’s always difficult to release an icon, there is a very reasonable argument against him being offered an extension. Anger is to be expected and, whenever it arrived, this day was always going to be acrimonious. Terry has been the one constant throughout the Roman Abramovich era and saying goodbye to him will, for many Chelsea supporters, feel like watching the credits role on a generation.

That’s fine, because that is fandom - football is supposed to be about growing an emotional attachment to players.

But the press response is odd, just as it was with Frank Lampard. When the midfielder left Stamford Bridge, it was described in the almost exactly the same terms: it was short-sighted and foolish, a nonsensical decision which couldn’t possibly be explained.

It’s almost as if, in this country, we have a tough time accepting an athlete’s mortality and believe that, once he reaches a certain level of gravitas, it’s up to him to decide the manner of his departure. In this instance - like Lampard - it’s being implied that it was John Terry’s place to tell Chelsea when he wanted to leave, not theirs to inform them as to when he would be. Even in the non-romantic sense, there appears to be a prevailing belief that Terry is owed a place in his club’s starting lineup forever.

That’s absurd and it must sound like an exaggerated point, but it’s the governing tone within a lot of these articles. Whether John Terry is released this Summer or in five years’ time, there will always be someone willing to argue that he deserves another year. Whether that’s because the journalist in question is in the pocket of the player’s agent or because he genuinely believes what he’s writing, it’s a movement which reappears any time the sun sets on a former England international. It happened with Lampard, to an ever greater extent with Steven Gerrard, and now it’s Terry’s turn.

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