Monday 24 October 2016

Richard Sadlier: Contract negotiations shouldn't be swayed by fans or driven by sentiment

Published 07/02/2016 | 14:00

Chelsea's John Terry
Chelsea's John Terry

It's a scandal that a one-club legend could be so ruthlessly discarded by the board, or there's nothing unusual in releasing a player time has caught up with.

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Whatever your view of John Terry or his possible departure from Stamford Bridge, life without him is a prospect Chelsea fans are struggling to accept.

Terry is the last remaining link between the fans and the club. I've heard and read that many times in the past week. They can relate to one another, apparently. He's their man on the field. There's enough history between them, pre-dating the Abramovich era, for it to feel like they are losing a lot more than simply a player. Even with all the other reasons to despair at the state of modern football, this is the ultimate show of disdain by a club towards its fans. It's almost as if decisions are made without their wishes at the forefront.

So much of the media coverage of this story has featured the reaction of Chelsea's supporters, but contract negotiations shouldn't be swayed by the views of the majority. There's an argument too that they shouldn't be made without the input of Chelsea's next manager. And they certainly shouldn't be driven by sentiment and emotion, which is how it seems when the argument for keeping him is made. There are areas of football when the views of fans are paramount in making decisions, but player recruitment has never been one, and it shouldn't be now. When it comes to life in the dressing room, fans are the least informed.

Maybe Terry's personality and status was a factor in the decision. It's easy to see the impact he has when he's playing his best on the field, but it's less obvious to measure the role he has behind the scenes. Some reports suggest he's a uniting figure that everyone is pleased to have around, but there are others concerned with his power and influence at the club. Regardless of how he is perceived by anyone currently working at Chelsea, this is definitely a decision best left to whoever becomes the next manager.

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Along with all the pontificating about loyalty and sentiment in football, there's another obvious truth that can't be ignored. Terry is 35 years old and playing poorly this season. He hasn't been the club's worst performer, not by a long shot, but he's a far cry from what he was in his best days. Maybe there's no need to look beyond that. Ignore all the talk about player power. What's wrong with treating him like any other player whose powers are fading fast? He's not what he used to be so there's nothing cruel or unusual in letting him leave.

As odd as this might sound, now isn't the time to talk up his years of service, his affinity for the club or his relationship with the fans. It doesn't matter how effective he was in the past. Chelsea managers don't survive the sack because of their past achievements in the job and the same should apply to the players. Footballers don't sign new contracts because of how good their clubs used to be - their decisions are based on how they see the future unfolding. Chelsea shouldn't be criticised for applying the same approach with Terry.

Chelsea's John Terry applauds fans after his team's match against Watford Photo: Reuters / Stefan Wermuth
Chelsea's John Terry applauds fans after his team's match against Watford Photo: Reuters / Stefan Wermuth

It may be hard for Chelsea's fans to imagine a Chelsea squad without him, and like most players, Terry is probably struggling to accept the passage of time. It's hard to think the club you served for so long would want you to leave, but it's even harder to play at 36 like you did at 28. Much has been said and written about Terry and how rare he is in today's game, but what he's going through now happens to every player eventually.

Terry could well be the last of his kind. It may seem like he's the fans' representative when he plays, but his departure won't change their standing in the eyes of the club. Their wishes are not the club's primary concern and it's been a long time since they were. Nothing will change in this regard, even if Terry stays.

He's isn't the power he once was as a footballer. He's on unfamiliar ground and it must hurt. I assume he spoke publicly about this in order to rally some support from fans, and given the reaction he got, he may yet get the outcome he wants.

It's hard to accept that your influence is fading but it won't change the fact that it is. Maybe there is a real link between him and Chelsea's fans after all.

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