Sorry John Terry, your England days are over


This was, in some respects, a good week for one of football's most divisive figures to announce his desire to return to the England national team. With bite-gate hogging the headlines like a hungry, hungry hippo, the "John Terry offers to end England exile" story went almost unacknowledged ahead of this weekend's Premier League action. This was a rare example of a good PR decision from the former Three Lions captain, who managed to avoid the cacophony of stifled laughter and jaded yawning that the announcement would have generated at any other stage of the season.

"Offers" is a strange word to use in this context, suggesting as it does that Terry somehow holds the cards in a stand-off that only he cares about. When Terry announced his international retirement seven months ago there was hardly an outpouring of grief. That decision, of course, came just before the FA found him guilty of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand. The "retirement" was merely a pre-emptive measure, an attempt to salvage some control of the situation; Terry, surely, would have been left out of the following England squad(s) anyway on moral grounds (or for reasons relating to PR - the concept that has apparently replaced actual ethics in modern society).

The fact that Terry jumped before he was pushed makes no great difference to his position now. The notion that he is somehow withholding something from the national team - that he is thus in a position to offer - is laughable. The feverish demand for John Terry's return to the England side doesn't exist outside of John Terry's (and, OK, maybe Frank "Frankie Lampard" Lampard's) head.

The Ferdinand affair may have passed, but it will not have been forgotten in the corridors of Wembley. The prospect of a storied England player - let alone the England captain - racially abusing a fellow professional would have sent shivers down the spines of FA chiefs throughout history. If the game really is facing a battle against some throwback New Racism (and there have been enough incidents over the last two years to suggest that this is at least a possibility), the recall of Terry would send out entirely the wrong message to those seeking to enshrine equality at the heart of football.

Even in purely footballing terms, it is hard to justify Terry's self-image as a potential saviour. The 32-year-old has started just three Premier League games since the turn of the year - a low return even when Rafael Benitez's rotation is taken into account. His influence at Stamford Bridge has diminished markedly this season, with David Luiz establishing himself as both the lynchpin of the defence and the side's natural leader. It is feasible that Terry would have started even fewer games had Gary Cahill - the man viewed as his potential heir by many - not been hampered by injury. Terry's statement, then, has been made from a position of weakness, not strength.

There are plenty of options at Roy Hodgson's disposal, even in Cahill's absence: Phil Jagielka has had yet another quietly impressive campaign; Joleon Lescott is a dependable campaigner; Phil Jones has done well at centre-back for Manchester United in recent weeks; and both Chris Smalling and Steven Caulker look good prospects for the future. There is hardly a gaping hole in front of Joe Hart that desperately needs filling.

And then there's Rio Ferdinand, whose standing is up in the air following his withdrawal from the squad ahead of the World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro in March. His continued involvement would cast yet further doubt on the viability of Terry's return.

If Terry thinks Hodgson is desperate to follow up the ignominy suffered during the (Rio) Ferdinand flip-flopping with another round of centre-back roulette, he is surely mistaken. Similarly, the prospect of the FA rolling out the red carpet for Terry's return in the wake of the (Anton) Ferdinand episode is unthinkable. The defender may not have realised it, but times have changed since his dishonourable pseudo-retirement.

Sorry John, but the message is clear: we're just not that into you.

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