I don’t have a problem with John Terry. Not really. His on-the-field performances have always impressed me and his off-the-field performances have kept me in snide columns for years. He can look awkward on television, like a battered tugboat struggling in a storm, but there is a reason that Chelsea fans worship him like a God. When you watch him in the flesh, you see what it is he brings to the team, the organisation he provides, the influence he exerts. He’s a multiplier on the men around him, even as his powers fade. Nevertheless, if I was Roy Hodgson, I wouldn’t take him to Krakow this summer.
The England football team does not exist to serve Terry, to enhance his reputation or to protect his legacy. It exists to win football matches. While Terry the footballer can help in that regard, Terry the public figure cannot. In fact, the effect of his inclusion could be quite the opposite. His presence could be divisive and it could be destructive. At the very least, it will be an unnecessary, unwanted distraction.
With every player on his shortlist, the new England boss must ask himself one question. What does this man bring to the team? If the good outweighs the bad, he’s in. On that basis, I don’t think Terry is going to make the cut. Sure, he’s a good defender and I’d rather have him in the backline than, say, Phil Jagielka or Gary Cahill, but that’s not going to be enough when you factor in the negatives.
If Terry is in, then Rio Ferdinand is out. There’s no way that the two men can share a dressing room, let alone the heart of the backline. Worse still, if Ferdinand is out, then so too are the noses of all of his friends. The dressing room could be poisoned. And then there’s the media impact.
Make no mistake, if he’s included in the squad, Hodgson will face a never-ending stream of Terry questions: Should you have picked him with that hanging over his head? Do you regret not bringing Rio? Do the players support your decision? Do the black players support your decision? Is there a dressing room split? Is there any team spirit now? Can you say Rio again, we need a nasty headline for the front page? Is Terry troubled by the impending court case? Is he at his best? Has he been at his best all season?
The Terry of 2005 was so good that perhaps the risk of including him, alienating the squad and providing every journalist in the land with a big thwacking stick would have been worth it. The Terry of 2012 is a more vulnerable, fallible creature. Under so much pressure, are you convinced that he won’t buckle? Imagine the reaction if he fell over in the first game.
If Terry, or angry Chelsea fans already priming themselves for the comment box beneath here, need someone to blame, they should turn their fire on club chief executive Ron Gourlay who appealed to District Judge Howard Riddle for an adjournment until the end of the season. Failing that, they can blame Judge Riddle for apparently deciding that football was more important than justice. It is not the fault of the England team, or the England supporters, that the case has been delayed.
This isn’t about judging a man as guilty until proven innocent and this isn’t some kind of vendetta on Terry himself. This is simple Vulcan wisdom. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one. We don’t know what the outcome of the court case will be. We do know what the outcome of Terry’s inclusion will be; a media firestorm. England are a mediocre, unprepared team in a deceptively difficult group. They need all the help they can get. They do not need the distraction of their former captain and his problems.