Terry’s captaincy biggest asset for Conte’s new Chelsea
OF all the declarations made recently, it was the words of Marina Granovskaia that determined the wisdom of John Terry’s contract extension with Chelsea.
“(We) believe he will be an important figure in the dressing room and on the pitch,” the Chelsea director said in a club statement that confirmed Terry had put pen to paper on his one-year contract extension.
All the other fluff about his undoubted legend along the King’s Road was just filler – we knew that already. Instead, Granovskaia was speaking as someone who understands the significance of what another year with the 35-yearold means for a club that continues to struggle with replacing him.
Rather than cast Terry aside and hope to find a player with his qualities, Chelsea have done the wise thing by ensuring the flame of his leadership will be passed on gradually.
Antonio Conte is inheriting a club this summer that is in a major state of flux. The Jose Mourinho experiment didn’t work for a second time, and for the all desire to build the club’s future with him at its heart, his sacking has meant Chelsea are unsure of where they’re headed.
The next few months are the most important since 2003 when Roman Abramovich first bought the club. The events of 13 years ago were s o significant, not because the Russian’s fortune made Chelsea into bona fide title contenders, but more because he saved the club from financial oblivion.
This Chelsea be without Terry the figurehead? The club doesn’t have another player like him to bond the boardroom with the terraces. He represents something so much more than just a player. It’s for that reason Granovskaia’s sentiments are so vital. Notice the emphasis on the dressing room before the pitch; Terry’s role is evolving and the football is becoming secondary. Conte needs figures like Terry to start his rebuilding job in west London. A manager coming in, not fully understanding the culture of English football and his new club, will require help in being full i ndoctrinated in all of it. That alone will not make him a success, but it will definitely help. It would be too much for him to reinvigorate Chelsea by starting from zero. Not when this season has shown how there is another major shift taking place in English football, fuelled by the investment of global broadcasters that are making every club flush.
Chelsea can no longer buy their way out of mistakes like they have in the past. The need now is to work through their shortcomings and demonstrate a collective desire to maintain their success. That’s done by reinforcing your strengths, not diluting or wiping them out altogether.
When we consider Mourinho’s love affair with Chelsea, more so than the trophies it was often defined by, it was an affection for the fans and Chelsea culture that was reciprocated. Blues supporters took to Mourinho as he understood what the club was about and manipulated that to his advantage.
He took over in 2004 when Chelsea were still relatively new to their rich-kid status. It sat comfortably on his shoulders, and from the outset, it was his bullish character that would endear him to the Stamford Bridge crowd.
Mourinho told Chelsea they shouldn’t feel embarrassed by their desire to win things and become England’s dominant club. The established elite didn’t like it, but that was their problem. He was in west London to win things, to wake up the sleeping giant that had been dozing for too long.
He achieved that, although it was the way he went about his business that captured the attention and won over the affections. A big part of it all was Terry’s presence as captain – the youth product who defied the big spending to become Chelsea’s most vital player.
Along with others such as Frank Lampard, they created the Chelsea ethos and delivered. They generated the belief and held the club together.
With Mourinho out of the picture, that part of Chelsea has gone. Conte’s task is to take the club in a different direction, but ultimately end up at the same location. There’s an amount of talent needed to do it, yet it needs to be moulded together to create the cohesion that leads to success.
“Everyone knows I’m Chelsea through and through,” Terry said, per the club website. The most important thing is that Conte and the Stamford Bridge board understand it, as the new manager’s task of rebuilding the club has just got that bit easier.
The ill-feeling that defined the past 12 months has been forgotten and Conte has stolen a march in his preparations for 2016/17, proving Chelsea are much stronger with Terry than without. The captain is the Blues’ biggest asset.