John Terry. A name that resounds the loudest and the proudest amongst all the names they sing at Stamford Bridge. The ‘Captain-Leader-Legend’ banner hangs proudly in the stands in the stadium whose pitch he graced for nearly two decades. A banner that portrays how Terry put all that he had on the line to defend for Chelsea every single game.
He could have lost his life that fateful day when Abou Diaby kicked him in the skull in the League Cup – all for Chelsea, blood, sweat, gut and tears. A definite heart-in-mouth moment for every Chelsea fan watching that game. The definition of ‘body-on-the-line’, John Terry captained his Blues to glory in England and in Europe, conquering it all in his time at the heart of the Blues defence.
He was the heart and soul the Chelsea defence throughout his entire career. The embodiment of a soldier, with battle scars and a war chest to show – a trophy cabinet that has it all.
Terry began his love affair with Chelsea when he joined the academy as a teenager at the age of 14. Born in Barking, London, the future Blues captain made his debut in a League Cup tie against Aston Villa on 28 October, 1998, when he was just 18 years old. He then got his first full start in a 2-0 FA Cup win against Oldham Athletic.
These were the initial years of Terry’s career where he learned his trade and imbibed all about what it takes to play at the highest level, from France’s World Cup-winning centre-back and club captain, Marcel Desailly. The 1999/00 season saw Chelsea win the FA Cup with John Terry in the squad, in what was his first taste of silverware. Following stints as a substitute, Terry began to establish himself in the first team in the 2000/01 season, making 23 starts and winning the club’s Player Of The Year award that season. Terry also scored his first goal for Chelsea in 2000 against Gillingham in the FA Cup, a first of many.
Terry was firmly announced as club captain by the then-incoming Jose Mourinho in 2004, after being appointed vice-captain while Desailly captained during the reign of Claudio Ranieri, which saw Terry donning the armband when Desailly wasn’t playing.
In his first season as captain, Chelsea set an English top-flight record for the best defensive record in the history of the English top-flight, and the Blues cruised to their first Premier League title. The Blues conceded just 15 goals through the whole season, a record yet to be surpassed by any club. John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho in the Blues defence set the bar high for central defenders across the league. With their stunning season, Terry went on to pick up the PFA Player Of The Year award.
The stage was then set in the Champions League that season, a round of 16 tie against the mighty Barcelona. A 2-1 defeat at the Camp Nou provided the outlay for the decider at Stamford Bridge. After the Blues’ initial blitzkrieg to a 3-0 lead at the Bridge with goals from Eidur Gudjohnsen, Frank Lampard and Damien Duff, a Barcelona mounted a comeback with Ronaldinho scoring a brace (a penalty and ‘that’ toe-poke from outside the box leaving Petr Cech bemused in goal), which tipped the tie in favour of the Catalan club. With time running out, the air was tense and suffocating. As the floodlights flickered at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea won a late corner. Both Terry and Carvalho ran up to the box for the corner. Damien Duff took the corner and curled the ball into the box. Terry came in on a late run and rose the highest to nod the ball into the far corner that made the game 4-2 on the night. The 5-4 aggregate meant Chelsea defeated Barcelona to progress into the quarter-finals. The goal that still stands out as Terry’s greatest goal ever.
After beating Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals, Chelsea wound up losing in the semi-finals to eventual Champions League winners Liverpool courtesy Louis Garcia’s phantom goal (which to this day I believe didn’t cross the line).
Terry scored 8 goals that season and announced himself to the world stage as Chelsea’s captain, and he went on be voted as the best defender in the Champions League for the season.
Terry then led Chelsea to the second Premier League title a season later in 2005/06. The Blues racked up 91 points clinching the title in a 3-0 win against Manchester United at the Bridge. Again conceding the least goals in the league at 22, winning the Premier League in successive years, cemented Terry as the World-Class captain and centre-back he was always meant to be.
FA Cup wins soon followed with the Blues lifting the FA Cup with Terry as captain in 2006–07, 2008–09, 2009–10 and in 2011–12.
The 2008 Champions League final against Manchester United and ‘that’ slip in the penalty shootout was the most heart-breaking, gut-wrenchingly devastating moment for any Chelsea fan. The Blues lost the Champions League final to Manchester United on penalties.
However, under Roberto Di Matteo, the Blues were vindicated of their demons and John Terry of his in 2008 by lifting the Champions League trophy after beating Bayern Munich in Munich in 2012. Terry didn’t play the final because he was suspended, but he was instrumental in our run-up to the final with vital goals like that against Napoli. Terry put in stellar performances throughout the campaign.
The Premier League and FA Cup double under Carlo Ancelotti in 2009/10 made Terry the first Chelsea captain to win the double in the club’s history.
However, Terry’s performances of excellence are without a doubt what stands out to many states. Despite his advancing age, journeyman Terry was instrumental in winning Chelsea the Premier League title in 2014/15 in Jose Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge, coming full circle to give Chelsea the league title at the age of 35. Terry played all of Chelsea’s 38 games that season and scored 5 goals as the Blues clinched the Premier League title, with Terry in the thick of it all, forging a successful partnership with Gary Cahill.
Terry then won his final Premier League title in 2016/17, which would turn out to be the club’s last Premier League title under Antonio Conte. Terry didn’t feature for the Blues as Conte preferred the other squad members in a 3-5-2 with three centre backs. He racked up his 717th appearance for Chelsea that season and was given the guard of honour by his Blues teammates in the 5-1 victory over Sunderland at Stamford Bridge.
Terry ended his Chelsea career as the highest goal-scoring defender in Premier League history with 41 goals – a record that will, well and truly, stand the test of time.
Terry’s emotional goodbye at the end of that season as he left Chelsea, his boyhood club and the club he dedicated his life to, in tears, remains firmly fixed in every Chelsea fan’s memory. We are truly blessed to have watched and witnessed the greatest defender and captain in the club’s history to have donned the club’s colours and pass through the club’s youth ranks.
Terry had it all as a defender. He was physical, imposing and strong, getting the better of many a centre-forward in his time. His aerial ability was impeccable. He would win the aerial battle against all his opponents, always making sure he got to the ball first and was ever so dangerous from set-pieces. He had an immaculate sense of positioning, an attribute he had to perfect after his pace began to drop as the years went by. He was strong on the deck and his gung-ho, all action, body-on-the line style of defending saw him outperform and bully most strikers who played against him. He also had brilliant distribution, especially with his weaker left foot, spraying pass after pass from the back. As a stopper centre-back, Terry would always meet the ball with aggression. He was strong in the tackle, brilliant in anticipation and his blocks and last-ditch tackles saved Chelsea on countless occasions. His timing of the tackle was exquisite and his leadership at the back, forging successful defensive partnerships throughout his career, stand as a testament to his abilities as a captain in central defence. A thoroughbred defender, he was the last line of defence for the Blues for nearly two decades and Mr.Chelsea through and through.
A man defined by three words ‘Captain-Leader-Legend’ that will echo in infamy, through the years and through time, just like the banner in the stands of Stamford Bridge reads, which will have us tell the tale of the man who lived up to those three words and sacrificed it all for his beloved Blues, in a career that encompassed the greatest era in Chelsea Football Club’s history.
Edited by: Dan