Wednesday 7 December 2016

Chelsea captain becomes league's highest-scoring central defender

Matt Law

Published 11/05/2015 | 02:30

John Terry leading Chelsea by example on and off the pitch
John Terry leading Chelsea by example on and off the pitch

Nobody would have blamed John Terry if he had taken Jose Mourinho up on his offer last week.

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After seeing his Chelsea team clinch the Premier League title by beating Crystal Palace, Mourinho told his first-team squad that he did not need to see them until Thursday.

Having played every minute of every game on the way to becoming champions, Terry had more reason than most to reward himself with an extended break ahead of facing Liverpool.

But after taking Monday off, Terry hit the gym on Tuesday and was back at Chelsea's Cobham training ground on Wednesday.

The hard work once again paid off as the captain (34) took just five minutes to become the highest-scoring central defender in Premier League history.

Terry's header was his 39th League goal, which puts him ahead of David Unsworth, Ian Harte and Leighton Baines - all of whom boosted their scoring records from the penalty spot and free-kicks.

Mourinho has given his players mini-breaks on numerous occasions throughout the season, but Terry has always returned early.

Enemies

When he has gone away during international breaks, his time has been split between the golf course and the gym.

Terry is on course to play 49 games in all competitions for Chelsea this season, two years after he made only 28 appearances and the interim manager Rafa Benitez tried to hasten the end of his Stamford Bridge career. He already has a contract for next season.

It was Terry who led the Chelsea team through Liverpool's pre-match guard of honour and took the applause of, among others, the Reds captain Steven Gerrard.

Brendan Rodgers is facing the task of having to tackle the one challenge no Liverpool manager over the past decade has wanted to contemplate - that of trying to replace Gerrard.

Mourinho's praise of Gerrard in the build-up to the game yesterday extended to his pre-match programme notes in which he said: "I want to honour a dear enemy: Steve Gerrard. We need dear enemies to be better, to be pushed to our limits, and no one in this country was that dear enemy better than Steve Gerrard - a super player and a good man, for sure.

"We were brothers in this passion for our game. I will miss him, it will be the last time Stamford Bridge can enjoy this dear enemy. I wish you the best, Steve - be happy in the USA with our legend Frank Lampard. The Premier League will miss you both."

Other than results on the pitch, two of Mourinho's biggest challenges over the next few years will be to try to find a replacement for Terry and also bring through the club's next home-grown player.

It remains a cause of great embarrassment to Chelsea that Terry remains the last player to come through the club's ranks and hold down a first-team place despite the Blues' impressive FA  Youth Cup record.

Mourinho gave notice that he is serious about addressing that particular issue by handing 19-year-old Ruben Loftus-Cheek a first senior start, taking the unconventional step of announcing the news in his programme notes.

"Our youth football again had beautiful results, but the best result is for the first team to have a new player who is young, English and made in Chelsea FC," Mourinho wrote. "Ruben Loftus-Cheek makes his first start today."

This season's Premier League title was Terry's fourth of his Chelsea career and he outlined exactly why it is so special for a player to live his dreams at the club that brought him through.

"I have been at Chelsea from the age of 14, as a ball boy, a YTS player and in the first team, and to still be playing at the very top, as captain of this great club is a great feeling," Terry said. "I have put everything into this club throughout my time here and this is what we work so hard for. There is no better feeling than winning the league and to do it for a fourth time with Chelsea is something I am immensely proud to have achieved."

Gerrard (34) will leave Liverpool at the end of this season having never won the Premier League title, as the Stamford Bridge crowd delighted in reminding him at every opportunity.

The Chelsea fans fell quiet when he headed the visitors' equaliser and then gave Gerrard the most unexpected of standing ovations, when he was substituted with 11 minutes remaining.

Mourinho joined in the applause and gave the home faithful a thumbs-up for their show of appreciation.

Goodwill

As playing role models go, Loftus-Cheek could not have been on the pitch with two more appropriate men than Terry and Gerrard.

The England youth international, who is similar in stature to both Patrick Vieira and Paul Pogba, did not take long to leave a mark on Liverpool as he cut down Philippe Coutinho. There were a couple of smart interceptions to follow and, most impressively, Loftus-Cheek completed all 27 passes he attempted.

Goodwill oozed from the Chelsea supporters, who want another player to call their own. It took only 19 minutes for chants of 'Ruben, Ruben, Ruben' to ring around Stamford Bridge and the teenager was given a standing ovation when he was replaced by Nemanja Matic after an hour.

"I think he did well," Mourinho said. "He's going to be a Chelsea player, there's no doubt.

"We have other kids, Nathan Ake, Izzy Brown, and I'll play some of them against West Bromwich Albion."

Like last week, Mourinho will once again allow his players the option of taking a few extra days off.

Terry will no doubt be back at Cobham early and Loftus-Cheek would be well advised to follow his lead. (© Daily Telegraph)

Telegraph.co.uk

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