Once again, English football is in the midst of a row caused by John Terry. His latest scandal, the alleged racial abuse of Anton Ferdinand, has meant that he and Ferdinand’s brother, Rio could not both be selected for England’s Euro 2012 squad, and it has resulted in the latter’s omission. It’s a situation that must feel all too familiar for the FA, and yet the powers that be still haven’t learned their lesson: John Terry is more trouble than he is worth.
When asked to justify Rio Ferdinand’s exclusion, Roy Hodgson cited ‘footballing reasons’. This clearly isn’t the whole story; dressing room politics is the real reason Ferdinand isn’t going. Now that he’s even been passed over in favour of Martin Kelly, whose experience of international football amounts to all of four minutes’ playing time, it has become evident just how important it is for Ferdinand to be kept away from John Terry.
People may say that Ferdinand has been left out because he is unable to play a run of matches in a short space of time. While this could be true, it is beside the point; as Gary Cahill’s back-up he could have served as a valuable stand-in for a game or two, in the case of injury or suspension. Surely, with 81 caps under his belt, the Manchester United captain would have been a more worthwhile replacement than the unproven Kelly, or Phil Jagielka. It is unimaginable how, at this stage, someone could still claim Ferdinand has been left out purely because he isn’t good enough. It seems as though a player who has done nothing wrong has been dropped in favour of a player who may well have done something wrong, and that is, if nothing else, immoral.
Whether or not Rio Ferdinand deserves to be in the England squad on merit is irrelevant, however. The point is that John Terry is a disruptive influence and should not be representing England in Poland and the Ukraine. Although, of course, he is innocent until proven guilty, the allegations of racism made against him will undoubtedly affect team harmony. Given that Ferdinand had taken exception to the Chelsea captain’s behaviour, it wouldn’t be surprising if some of the other England players had, too.
There is an increasingly popular belief that it’s not merely a coincidence that some of most surprising omissions from the squad (Richards, Sturridge, Lennon) were all black players. The theory is that due to their race, Hodgson felt those players would be especially resentful of Terry and so, in the interest of unity, he excluded them. Personally, I don’t buy this argument for a second, but the existence of such cynical, not to mention controversial discourse is indicative of the negative press surrounding this issue and the severity of the situation.
John Terry has been the target of a lot of criticism over the years for his behaviour, and rightly so. The current media storm over him is not the first (and probably won’t be the last); his career has been regularly punctuated by various transgressions and misdemeanours. From claims of assault, to extra-marital affairs, to the Wayne Bridge fiasco, trouble seems to hang around him like a bad smell. He’s not the type of person you want to be a member your squad, never mind one of its leaders, as is expected of a player of his age and experience. Having caused the departure of Fabio Capello, not to mention having a hand in the dismissal of one of his club’s managers, I honestly don’t see why Hodgson has put his reputation at risk for Terry.
It might be different if he was an absolutely indispensable member of the squad, but he isn’t the player he once was. At 31 years of age, he’s definitely lost some of the pace and mobility of his younger days. His impetuous knee to the back of Alexis Sánchez in Chelsea’s Champions League semi-final against Barcelona suggested that he could also be a red card waiting to happen. The fact of the matter is that John Terry’s potential contribution on the pitch isn’t justification enough for the considerable burden he is to his team.
I don’t like to criticise England managers – it’s a hard job and they get plenty of stick from the press. However, I think Roy Hodgson has got this one wrong. The last thing he needs is a divided dressing room, but by going to such lengths to leave Rio Ferdinand out, he has thrown into sharp focus the disruptive influence that is John Terry. The team’s issues could have been resolved if the root of the problem had been removed from the beginning, but unfortunately he, and the excessive baggage that comes with him, have already arrived in Poland.