MIXED NIGHT

In pos­si­bly his last game, Blues cap­tain Terry plays hero and vil­lain against Wat­ford

New Straits Times - - Sport - JOHN TERRY

LON­DON

JOHN Terry has had many highs and a few lows in his two decades at Chelsea, so it was fitting that he was both hero and vil­lain in what was pos­si­bly his last full ap­pear­ance for the club he joined as a 14year-old school­boy.

Terry, who has played more than 700 times for Chelsea, re­sponded to a rare re­turn to the start­ing 11 against Wat­ford on Monday by open­ing the scor­ing in the 22nd minute in a hel­terskel­ter, end-of-sea­son, 4-3 win for Chelsea who clinched the Premier League ti­tle last week.

The 36-year-old for­mer Eng­land cap­tain hooked home a loose ball af­ter a cor­ner and wheeled away in cel­e­bra­tion, rolling back the years for Chelsea fans who have long en­joyed the sight of their skip­per claim­ing key goals while also shoring up a de­fence that was of­ten the bedrock of the club’s suc­cesses.

The party at­mos­phere went quiet within se­conds of the restart, how­ever, when Terry failed to clear a cross in front of the Chelsea goal, head­ing the ball up rather than out of the dan­ger area and giv­ing Eti­enne Capoue the sim­plest of tasks to equalise.

Terry gri­maced, know­ing he might have given up his last chance of an un­blem­ished farewell although Chelsea ended up win­ning the roller-coaster game thanks to a late win­ner by Cesc Fabre­gas.

Terry has spent much of the sea­son on the sub­sti­tutes’ bench as Ital­ian coach An­to­nio Conte opted for a three-man de­fen­sive sys­tem that re­quired more speed than the vet­eran has.

But the man Chelsea fans hail as “cap­tain, leader, leg­end” in ban­ners draped around the sta­dium was able to com­pen­sate for years through his as­tute read­ing of the game, ac­cu­rate pass­ing, nat­u­ral strength and sheer com­mit­ment.

At a club ac­cus­tomed to buy­ing the best tal­ent avail­able on the global mar­ket, Terry struck a chord with fans as a hard-work­ing lo­cal lad who reached the very top of the game.

De­spite off-field con­tro­ver­sies, in­clud­ing a charge of racist abuse for which he was cleared in court and an al­leged af­fair with a for­mer team­mate’s ex-girl­friend, Terry hardly ever let Chelsea down on the pitch.

Conte hinted that Terry was un­likely to start Chelsea’s fi­nal league game of the sea­son on Sun­day against al­ready rel­e­gated Sun­der­land as the coach said he wanted to get his FA Cup fi­nal team ready and play­ing ahead of the May 27 show­down against Arse­nal.

But he also said he wanted Terry to lift the English league tro­phy next week as a fi­nal send-off.

Terry said he was proud to be end­ing his time at Chelsea with a fifth Premier League win­ners’ medal and the FA Cup Fi­nal still to come.

“If I could have writ­ten my story as a 14-year-old, when I signed on the pitch, this would have been it,” he wrote in Monday’s match­day pro­gramme. Reuters

If I could have writ­ten my story as a 14year-old, when I signed on the pitch, this would have been it.

REUTERS PIC

Chelsea's John Terry ap­plauds the fans af­ter the match against Wat­ford on Monday. Terry scored the open­ing goal in Chelsea’s 4-3 win.

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