European champion Terry better off without England circus

Posted by Phil Lythell

So John Terry has retired from international football and my initial reaction is one of delight at his decision.

Terry is still one of the very best central defenders in Europe -- and, by proxy, the world -- and now he will benefit from periodic fortnight-long breaks to recharge his batteries between Premier League matches. The Chelsea captain has shown himself to be more and more susceptible to injury over the last two years and easing the burden of playing for England can only be a good thing as far as his long and short-term fitness is concerned.

It also ends the now-standard circus that surrounds the selection of every England team including the pious rhetoric espoused by all those who believe being a footballer means that you are therefore responsible for the moral values of a nation. Football is rarely the subject when John Terry's name is brought up -- for that he does have himself to blame -- but equally, pthe opportunity to pour scorn on an individual is always greedily gobbled up with those with column inches to fill and pageviews to amass.

While many will rejoice at the departure of Terry from the national team, they should be careful what they wish for. He has been England's best defender over the past decade and remains so. His ability, experience and leadership are three qualities that have always been noticeable by their absence when he has been unavailable for selection.

Need examples? How about when England lost 3-2 at home against Croatia in 2007 in the decisive Euro 2008 qualifier or the defeat in Russia in the fixture before that? Perhaps the recent World Cup 2014 qualifier against Ukraine (a draw) is fresher in the memory?

His detractors will be keen to point out a sub-standard 2010 World Cup but it should be noted that in the four matches that England played in South Africa, he started alongside three different centre-backs (Ledley King, Jamie Carragher and Matthew Upson) that caused instability in the most crucial area of the field. It is also important to point out that successive managers, for both club and country, have shown him to be indispensable with Jose Mourinho giving him the captain's armband and Fabio Capello resigning over the decision to strip him of it.

The nature of Terry’s departure has been pored over during the last 24 hours, in particular his dig at the Football Association, asserting that his position in the England squad had become "untenable" in light of the governing body's ongoing investigation into allegations of racist abuse.

While nobody is arguing that the FA should not conduct their own inquiry into the affair, it does seem rather odd that the verdict of the country's justice system is not good enough for those in Soho Square. Right or wrong, that stance will have convinced him that they are determined to see him burn and with that in mind, it's easy to see why he would choose not to cow to the hand that beats him by serving his punishers on the pitch. With their almost flawless conviction rate, it seems impossible that Terry will not avoid sanction from the FA and it is hard to escape the notion that the former skipper is choosing to leave on his own terms rather than being ousted unceremoniously.

From some of the reaction that I have seen so far from excellent journalists such as Daniel Taylor and Henry Winter, there has been some praise for his performances but also some obfuscation over the facts. Yes, Terry is not the most likeable man in the world and he has certainly been culpable of his share of indiscretions. Equally, his playing of the "victim" card will be a little hard to swallow for most, but he perception that the FA have always stood by him is wide of the mark. They didn't stand by him while he waited to appear in court to face a charge of assault in 2002 (missing out on that year's World Cup) of which he was found not guilty -- it's a position the FA have not always followed when one of their stars have awaited trial. They also failed to stand by him when two tabloids, The Sun and The News of the World, printed allegations of an affair with Wayne Bridge's girlfriend, an allegation that was unfounded and for which the News of the World subsequently issued a rare apology. Terry was stripped of the captaincy for a rumour that had nothing to do with football, little wonder he harbours some resentment.

John Terry owes England absolutely nothing which is perfect. Now he can devote himself to the one place that has always valued him -- Chelsea Football Club.

Happy international retirement, JT.

Follow PhilLythell on Twitter @PhilLythell

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