Monday, September 24, 2012
JT jumped before he was pushed
Harry Harris, Football Correspondent
JT's QC knew the score. FA disciplinary hearings have become mini court cases, with counsel, disclosure, phone records and cross-examination - the legal works.
So it is fair to assume that John Terry's advisors suspected an unfavourable verdict might be in the pipeline.
Having researched the situation prior to Terry's announcement, I knew - as indeed the Chelsea captain did - that the next hearing, behind closed doors at Wembley with the FA board and England manager Roy Hodgson, would be decisive in determining whether he would ever be allowed to play for his country again.
Of course, if - as expected - he is found guilty by the governing body of making alleged racist remarks towards fellow professional Anton Ferdinand, there is no room for such a player in the national team. Terry knew this, and his international retirement seems a move to pre-empt the FA's decision.
Why? Why not fight on, appeal against any guilty verdict, fight to preserve something so dear to him as wearing the Three Lions?
The answer is simple. It would not just be the indignity of being the first England player to be stripped of his place in the England team because of a racial slur, but the debate leading up to such a decision would have been personally crippling.
Imagine the verdict of the anti-racism campaigners such as the highly respected and influential Lord Herman Ouseley, the chair of Kick It Out, to whom I have spoken at length.
I know their view. It would not be a very pretty one for Terry. On balance, therefore, he jumped before he was pushed.
There is an interesting paradox to Terry. He's loathed by some for his off the field antics - and they are far too many to list - but suffice to say they cost him the England captaincy and Fabio Capello his job as manager of the national team.
But on the field, Terry is a colossus. Like Bobby Moore, he lacks pace but, also like the only man to lift the World Cup, he has a wide defensive know-how.
But let's put it into perspective: Terry is no Bobby Moore or Billy Wright, more a Terry Butcher or Jackie Charlton - that is his true level. Good enough to live in that class of England central defender. But truly world class? Not really.
His greatest powers are of dressing-room leadership and motivation.
When he was spotted directing the Chelsea team behind the shoulder of Roberto Di Matteo last season, it was clear to see the enormous influence he wields at club level.
He has done the job equally astutely within the England dressing room. That is why Capello stood his ground and walked away over Terry. And it is why Hodgson, the relatively new England incumbent, will be biting those nails even more and marking this day as one that might have seen his tenure as Three Lions boss take a downturn.
But Terry's pre-emptive decision on his England career isn't closure - far from it. It might be the end of the issue for the player, but it is not for the FA.
It seems the association has got off lightly, no longer in the invidious position of having to pass a subjective verdict on the player's England career in the aftermath of any guilty verdict. But it is still in the firing line from the anti-racism lobby.
It is only weeks away from being a year ago that Terry's confrontation with Ferdinand led to these charges.
The FA let its disciplinary case drift because of the police action and subsequent court delays, and the ramifications have been immense: Rio Ferdinand was left out of the Euros for "footballing reasons", there was the absurdity of the non-handshakes, and there is the big question of how the FA will rectify this situation in case of any future occurrences.