Fenno on Sport

 
 

In his regular column, Paul Fennessy gives his views on the furore surrounding John Terry’s alleged affair and Ireland’s chances in the upcoming Six Nations Championship

Modern sports stars have a tendency to think they are untouchable. From Tiger Wood’s much publicised affairs to Cristiano Ronaldo’s persistent on-field petulance, it is often the case that the most talented of these individuals participate in the most disreputable behaviour.

Since the Premier League’s inception and the onset of Sky television, unprecedented levels of hype and money have become part of the modern game. And naturally, when an undue level of importance becomes attached to something, those involved sometimes respond by acquiring ignominious Messianic complexes.

John Terry, of course, is no exception to this trend, assuming recent allegations surrounding his private life are indeed true. Moreover, an interesting question has also arisen in light of recent revelations: should Terry be stripped of the England captaincy?

Normally, it would be unreasonable to argue that a player’s personal life should bear any impact on his footballing one. Yet Terry’s situation is complicated by the fact that the affair in question involves the ex-girlfriend of Wayne Bridge – a potential teammate of his come the 2010 World Cup.

Therefore, it seems difficult to dispute that Terry’s capacity to inspire and demand respect from his teammates – along with the British public in general – will be diminished to some extent. What message, for example, will it send out to younger fans if Terry’s misdemeanour is ignored?

However, there is also a compelling counter-argument stating that Terry is an exceptional case and should be treated as such. It goes without saying that his on-field ability is exemplary.

Terry is arguably the finest central defender in the Premiership, if not the world. This belief is supported by the fact that he has been voted the best defender in the Champions League in both 2005 and 2008, in addition to earning recognition from his colleagues when he was voted PFA player of the year in 2005.

Yet despite the numerous accolades he has garnered, Terry appears to be a patently unhappy individual. And perhaps not coincidentally, he is someone whose life has been dominated by football from a very early age.

After a stint with the elite Senrab team, Terry joined Chelsea’s youth system at fourteen, where he was undoubtedly shielded from the real world and steadily moulded into the talismanic figure he would become. Consequently, Terry’s talent became apparent so swiftly that he never endured the immense struggle to gain recognition which many top players – including Roy Keane and Ian Wright – initially experienced.

Terry had everything his own way basically, without ever experiencing the merest flirtation with failure that is often crucial in the building of a person’s character. Instead he was constantly cosseted by officials at Stamford Bridge with his destiny seemingly forecast from day one. However, Terry is quickly learning that he has no divine right to always get what he wants, despite his God-given talent.

A crucial moment in his life occurred amid the conclusion of the 2008 European Cup Final. During the penalty shoot-out against Manchester United, it was Terry whose spot-kick would have secured Chelsea the one elusive trophy they have yet to secure.

In a recent interview prior to information of the scandal emerging, Terry expressed the disconcerting extent to which his penalty miss affected him, admitting that he thinks about this moment at least once a day. Thus, Terry seems to have been traumatised by the incident.

Moreover, this seeming emotional vulnerability has been reflected in his behaviour on other occasions aside from the affair. Reports have constantly linked him with unseemly activities. He was accused of charging fans undue fees for giving them a tour of the Chelsea training ground and consequently pocketing obscene amounts of cash. He even gained a reputation as a chronic love cheat before getting married.

Furthermore, Terry is no angel on the pitch. He has shown a consistent capacity to commit rash tackles and on more than one occasion, his angry confrontations of referees – following a questionable decision of theirs – has bordered on the psychopathic. This, needless to say, is not the type of behaviour which an England captain would ideally engage in.

Ultimately, it is not of crucial importance that other players like their captain as a person. Nonetheless, it is paramount that they respect him. Terry’s continuing inability to learn from the error of his ways – so starkly highlighted by his exhibition of disrespect and insensitivity towards a teammate’s feelings, not to mention his own family – should ensure Fabio Capello makes the correct decision and strips Terry of the England captaincy.

In the immediate aftermath of the aforementioned Champions League Final penalty shoot-out, Frank Lampard described Terry as ‘a man’s man’. Sadly, in this instance, he has failed to live up to such a billing.

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The next few weeks will provide a fascinating insight into the level of greatness with which the Irish rugby team can legitimately be associated. Securing back-to-back Six Nations would provide the fitting triumph that the careers of magisterial players like Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell deserve. Moreover, it would also represent another hugely significant step on the career paths of our seemingly endless array of promising youngsters such as Cian Healy and Johnny Sexton.

The squad’s immense talent, coupled with the adept coaching style of Declan Kidney, renders it foolish to bet against the current side achieving this aim.

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