There are few professional football players who perform the aggrieved, badly done to, woe-is-me role with as much skill and passion as Chelsea’s John Terry. And the fallout from the former England captain’s inexplicably delayed disciplinary hearing over his alleged racial abuse of QPR’s Anton Ferdinand has seen Terry face the prospect of a ridiculously lenient 4-match EPL suspension with his trademark sulk.
Having been cleared, just, of racially aggravated charges in an English Magistrates Court earlier in the summer – but conveniently late enough for him to participate in England’s Euro 2012 campaign – Terry’s initial stance was to feign incredulity that the English Football Association had the the temerity to pursue their own independent investigation against him. Never mind that the presiding magistrate in his criminal acquittal suggested in his summing-up that “Mr Terry’s explanation is, certainly under the cold light of forensic examination, unlikely”, the fact that the evidence was not sufficient to secure a criminal conviction under the “beyond all reasonable doubt” English legal requirement was, in John Terry’s closetted World, an endorsement of his pure innocence regarding the whole unsavoury incident.
But the FA, and every other right-minded individual outside of London SW6, thought otherwise and Terry duly found himself facing FA charges requiring the somewhat less demanding “balance of probabilities” burden of proof. Terry’s admirable, if mis-guided, defence in court was to roadtest a variety of paper-thin excuses to explain how he had been caught on TV directing offensive words towards Ferdinand, excuses ranging from sarcasm to supposedly repeating what Ferdinand had previously said to him in search of clarification. But the FA merely needed to demonstrate “use of abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour which included a reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race”. The context in which the words or phrases had been used was irrelevant – thus shattering Terry’s implausible defence in court – and his being found guilty was as inevitable as Man Utd being awarded a controversial penalty!
And Terry’s reaction? Showing a staggering, if unsurprising, lack of awareness, John Terry decided to position himself as the victim of a witchhunt; the big bad bullies at the FA pursuing a vendetta against this most homely of souls. By petulantly retiring from international football on the eve of his hearing, in a vain attempt to evoke sympathy from the general public, Terry succeeded instead in merely reaffirming the widespread perception that he is a spoilt, untouchable brat; pandered to his every whim within the corridors of his Stamford Bridge kingdom.
His childish petulance and self-centred agenda reminds me of another ‘untouchable’ in EPL history, namely former England striker Alan Shearer. Readers may recall Shearer’s reaction to the close attentions of then-Leicester City midfielder and current Celtic manager Neil Lennon; essentially Shearer clearly and deliberately repeatedly kicked the fallen Lennon in the face while the two jostled on the touchline during a match. Shearer, at the time the undisputed leader of the England attack, threatened very publically to refuse to participate in the upcoming FIFA World Cup 1998 should the English FA dare to pursue disciplinary proceedings against him. Needless to say the spineless FA buckled and Shearer was free to continue on his merry way….
John Terry has had plenty of practice to hone his wounded puppy act, whether it was drunkenly insulting American tourists over the 9/11 atrocity, being caught selling private tours of Stamford Bridge or fighting lurid accusations of affairs. Even as recently as last season Terry sought to take the badly-done-to stance when dismissed for his crude knee into the back of FC Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez during their European Champions League semi-final encounter. Despite facing suspension for one of the most blatant and crass off-the-ball fouls you will ever see, Terry’s immediate response was to claim the whole incident had been a horrid accident. Why? Because his pampered life at Chelsea had him believing he would simply get away with it. Even when confronted with irrefutable TV evidence suggesting a slightly greater level of culprability on his part, Terry’s subsequent apology for risking a place in the Champions League Final by forcing his teammates to fend off Messi & Co. with a man down for an hour was said with all the genuine remorse of a Trade Union Leader announcing another holiday airport baggage strike! Laughable!
While repolishing his halo as he contemplates an ill-judged appeal against the FA’s verdict, John Terry needs to carefully consider his actual standing in the game rather than the fluffy, warm and cosy treatment he enjoys at Stamford Bridge. Terry remains one of the most unpopular characters in the EPL and any frivolous appeal would just add to the long list of reasons to despise him. Rather he should consider his good fortune in facing a ban of just four games when compared with the precedent set in Luis Suarez’s eight-match suspension….