John Terry: An open letter to Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich

Subject: John Terry: An open letter to Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich
Date: 4 Feb 2016

Dear Mr Abramovich,

John Terry is Chelsea, the modern incarnation at least and I mean that in every sense, for better and worse.

He represents the boring football. The hatred of rival supporters, the negative press, 'Chelski' cheating and buying their way to the top table. Countless others have copied the model across Europe, but none have done it quite so well, or made others quite so angry, as Chelsea and Terry.

While others have come and gone, the 35-year-old former academy player has been the constant. The totem, even more so than the sometimes humourous Jose Mourinho, for all that scorn and vitriol. The most hated player of the modern generation? Probably. The best defender of the modern generation? Trickier to answer but definitely in the conversation.
As you well know, he has given more than two decades of his life to serve the Blues and done so with more success than any other player in the club's 111-year history. Chelsea have won 22 major trophies since 1905; Terry has 14 of the medals in his trophy cabinet.

He is the only youth team product of the last 20 years to make himself a constant presence in the first-team - Ruben Loftus-Cheek is almost there but has a long way to go - and has captained the side for the last 12 years. Since making his debut for the club all the way back in 1998, he has played 696 matches, most of them at a very, very high level. Only two men have played more - the last of those playing in 1980.

In the last 35 years no player put his body on the line more often, cared more about winning in Blue or dispensed of more blood, sweat and tears to make Chelsea one of Europe's premier clubs. Your billions propelled the club into the elite - and every Chelsea fan is thankful for that - but it was Terry, with select others, who kept Chelsea at the top pretty much year in, year out.

As in any relationship there have been horrible, painful, embarrassing lows. Idiocy after 9/11; being charged (and cleared) of assault and affray; Wayne Bridge and Vanessa Perroncel; Anton Ferdinand racism accusations; being stripped of the England captaincy twice and others. Those incidents went a long way to making him a hate figure amongst rival fans - his blinding success as a chest-thumping, passionate, win-at-all-costs defender out of the very top drawer did the rest.

Strangely, each transgression only made Terry more of a hero to supporters. Terry, in a Chelsea fans' eyes, was unfairly treated for his sins when other players at more fashionable clubs got off without the reputation as a 'scumbag' travelling with him wherever he went.

On the pitch the lows - Moscow and Barcelona - were far outweighed by the inspirational excellence Terry displayed. Always underrated for his football skill, the defender, even in his worst days, could be relied on to give maximum effort.

Now, 18 years after making his debut, it seems you and your advisors have Terry on his way out of Stamford Bridge.


Terry, in making his revelatory comments on Sunday, made it clear he wants to stay. At Vicarage Road against Watford his army of loyal fans will make it very clear they want him to stay. Guus Hiddink, the man you appointed as interim manager, in his pre-match press conference made it clear that Terry is still playing 'perfectly'.

You can't be getting rid of Terry because of his performances on the pitch. It's a well-trodden stat that he played every minute of every game in the Premier League last season, leading Chelsea to the first title in five years. His performances deservedly got him into the team of the year, he was masterful. Tiredness and, perhaps complacency, saw his performances slip at the start of the season but more of his poor play was down to a lack of protection in front of him, Terry was dropped in an act that many saw as him being the scapegoat. As Chelsea's other players have improved so has Terry. It's not even as if declining physicality has deserted him and made him a lesser player, or will bother him too much in future. The former England captain has never relied on pace, his style of play and commitment to fitness could easily see him continue for another two or three years, even if it meant a more limited role.

You're not getting rid of him because we have better players waiting to replace him - he's still the first name on the team-sheet and easily Chelsea's best defender. Look at the Arsenal performance. Kurt Zouma is a superb prospect, but don't fool yourself into thinking he is anywhere close to being the finished article, he has so much to improve in numerous areas of his game. Gary Cahill can't get into the team and only looks any good when playing alongside Terry. What other options have you got? Branislav Ivanovic, Papy Djilobodji, Matt Miazga and Michael Hector? Laughable.

What your transfer committee doesn't seem to have grasped in the last couple of years is the importance of dressing room chemistry. They've constantly replaced important, influential players who care about the club with sub-standard mercenaries. Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Petr Cech and Ashley Cole had come to the end of their peaks but still should have had roles to play in shaping a culture in the dressing room. Jose Mourinho, and their own personal desire to play more, will have had some input into those exits but it is obvious to all that Chelsea, beyond Terry are severely lacking in leadership.

Those players, winners, may not have been able to play 50 matches in a season but it is not an impossible task to keep ageing stars happy. Just ask Sir Alex Ferguson, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes. That pair were able to play at Old Trafford into their late 30s and have a huge influence on major trophies being won. Terry's long and distinguished career at the club makes him deserving, if he wants it, of that kind of role at the club... at least.

John Terry still has an over-bearing role as the leader and, in fact, identity of the club - who do you see replacing that void? Captains can't be made, they develop organically. Beyond Terry is there a man able to step into his shoes? Not an obvious one.

When people think of Chelsea, now that Mourinho and Lampard are gone, they think of you and Terry. Eden Hazard has the potential, but he doesn't strike many as one to stick around for another decade. Not when the riches of Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and others are on offer. Cesc Fabregas is an elite performer but will always have his Arsenal past. Gary Cahill, Oscar, Diego Costa? Again, laughable.

You have shown during your ownership that you care little for what fans think. Sacking Mourinho, appointing Avram Grant, sacking Carlo Ancelotti, sacking Roberto Di Matteo, appointing Rafa Benitez, promoting Michael Emenalo, sacking Mourinho (again). All efforts should have been made to see Frank Lampard end his career in Blue. All efforts should have been made to help keep Mourinho happy in the summer and improve the players with the squad he wanted. Now all effort should have been made to ensure Chelsea's greatest ever player remains at the club.

Terry remains pretty much the only player Chelsea supporters, real ones, not the highly valued fans from the far corners of the Earth, can relate to. He's the final, tenuous, link between a severely disillusioned fanbase and a hidden, secretive regime.

He's from London. He cares about the club. He interacts with them on a regular basis. He actually bothers to acknowledge supporters who shell out hundreds of pounds to follow the team up and down the country and around Europe - and it's not just a token gesture. He may be a millionaire leading a life many of us dream about, but he is not the kind of footballer locked away, only at Chelsea because it is the best place to add zeroes to a bank account and trophies to a cabinet. He obviously has those desires as well, but represents so much more.

Worse still, you and your team of trusted advisors didn't even have the courage to tell Terry directly. He found out via a phone call from his agent. If there is one man who deserved more, it was Terry. There is, I assume, not a lot of room for sentimentality in building a multi-billion pound empire, but football, no matter how much we are told and how much money is at stake, is not a business.

Supporters invest money into a club but they invest so much more - emotion. Long after you are gone there were still be those of us who continue to care about Chelsea. We deserve some consideration when you make decisions, plenty has been taken from supporters in exchange for the riches and success you have brough to Stamford Bridge and we wouldn't change the vast majority of it.

It is clear that if Terry is to leave it's not a football decision, but one subject to outside factors. Will he suit the new manager, will he decline with age, is he too powerful a force in the dressing room. All of those things may come to pass. But Terry's career, and what he has done for the club, means he deserves to end his career at Stamford Bridge.

John Terry is Chelsea after all.

Yours sincerely,

Tom Sheen