“It breaks my heart to make this decision,” said John Terry when announcing to the media that he would retire from international football. He boasts an impressive international career, spanning one year short of a decade, winning 78 caps. He represented England in four major tournaments and was undoubtedly a lionheart on the pitch.
It could not have been more different off the pitch. Over the years, Terry has always jostled with the likes of Joey Barton and team-mate Ashley Cole for the crown of public enemy number one. Chelsea have never helped the public’s perception as they have responded to his misdemeanours with blind loyalty on numerous occasions. The icing on the cake was his unfounded, racial, altercation with Anton Ferdinand which resulted in criminal charges. The former England captain was acquitted.
Despite this, on 28th July, the Football Association ruled that the matter was not closed and should be brought towards an independent panel and it is this action that has, belatedly, prompted Terry’s stance to call a halt to his international career. According to Terry, the FA have made his position ‘untenable’ and presumably he feels that he is being subjected to a witch hunt.
In desperately trying to maintain a squeaky clean image, the FA know that racism is a top priority and it cannot, and should not, be tolerated. Furthermore, precedence was set as per the Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez case. However, many rightfully argued that the Suarez ‘conviction’ was wrong as it would not have stood up in a court of law. In John Terry’s case, he has been tried and acquitted in a magistrates court. Before the court proceedings commenced the evidence seemed overwhelmingly stacked against Terry, yet inside the courtroom, when the evidence was laid bare, the case was almost laughable, taking you back to schooldays of ‘he said, she said’ arguments. His innocence was proven beyond reasonable doubt.
So now, the FA are essentially playing the double jeopardy card. On what basis? Has any new evidence come to light? Terry was cleared in a court of law so then, how can the FA get involved afterwards? Indeed, it is common knowledge that individuals hauled up in front of the FA’s ‘independent’ disciplinary panel are generally found guilty, hence the announcement of his retirement.
As far as claims that Terry is being made a scapegoat, that is a weak retort. Given the seriousness of the accusations when the incident with Anton Ferdinand occurred, the FA, were right to insist that Terry lost the England armband (for the second time in his career). However, they should have also grown a pair and dropped him entirely from the national squad if they really cared what the impact of his case had on the game. The fallout from this sorry episode was spectacular and has ridiculed English football. Fabio Capello resigned, Roy Hodgson was later surprisingly appointed, and his first move was to reel off some mumbo-jumbo, excusing Rio Ferdinand from his plans. The rest of us put two and two together.
Now Roy Hodgson has to pick up the pieces. From the offset, he made it abundantly clear that the likes of Terry, and not Ferdinand, were key to his England set-up. Without Terry, Hodgson lacks an experienced England centre-half in what is a very tough World Cup qualifying group. Ukraine, Poland and Montenegro represent difficult fixtures, particularly away from home, where the home sides will ask considerable questions of the England defence. A return to the international fold for Rio Ferdinand remains unlikely and for Hodgson, his hand is now forced to build for the future.