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Terry keeps his pride intact

IN his moment of triumph, as his team-mates tried to embrace him, John Terry squirmed with embarrassment. Like a little boy still smarting from getting caught stealing sweets from the corner shop the day before. A tainted hero.

It was not the time for moralising. Terry had rescued Chelsea from squandering two points in the frantic Premier League title chase and silenced the jeers of the Burnley fans at his every touch of the ball. This was strictly business.

Terry shrugged off his colleagues and, with barely a smile, trotted back for the restart. Normal service resumed, the Chelsea and England captain doing what he does best. Leading from the front, by example. On the pitch, at least.



DASTARDLY

"JT has got his football head on," Ray Wilkins, the Chelsea assistant manager, had said before kick-off. And he had, rising highest to powerfully nod in Frank Lampard's arcing corner.

It was a 'you couldn't make it up' moment. The dastardly rogue; the family man-turned-dandy man; creating his own headlines; not only playing away from home but scoring away from home. Brilliant.

At the start of each half at Turf Moor the tannoy blasts out Tubthumping, the classic single by Chumbawamba, the Burnley anarcho-punk band of the Nineties. The chorus of "I get knocked down but I get up again" should be Terry's mantra, such is the apparently dysfunctional nature of anyone connected with the central defender. Team Terry has become a laughing stock.

Perhaps if the PA announcer had wanted to get really mischievous on a freezing Saturday night in East Lancashire, Bridge Over Troubled Water might have been a more appropriate manner in which to welcome the visiting team. Burnley, though, know their place in the Premier League food chain. Do not upset your elders and betters, especially when international outrage has descended on them.

Amid all the opprobrium, Carlo Ancelotti cut a bemused fatherly figure, struggling to offer the right Anglo- Italian words on his problem child, trying not to inflame a debate already spiralling out of control. As is football's wont, he chose to emphasise the positive and only hint at the negative. And, no, there is no way that he will be stripping Terry of his cherished captaincy. As if.

"John is a fantastic professional player," Ancelotti said. "Anyone can have a problem and it's important to stay focused on his job, and he's done this. He is a strong man. I don't have to manage anything. John has his private life and he has to control his private life. I have to control my team. He is the captain of this team and I am honoured and very proud to manage John Terry. Not only the players, the management and everyone at the club support him and his family."

Petr Cech, the Chelsea goalkeeper, adopted a similar theme. No denial, a disbelief that Terry could possibly have been a very naughty boy, but evasion, a subtle skirting of the most delicate of issues. "He showed a lot of character because it was not an easy situation for him," Cech said.

Quite how Alastair Campbell, the Burnley fan and former Labour spin doctor, would have dealt with the shock-horror episode would have proved enlightening. Shame is certainly not in his vocabulary, to judge from the double-page plug for his latest novel (Maya, published by Hutchinson, £18.99 hardback) in the match programme. "Celebrity does funny things to people," Campbell wrote. "There are a few footballers around who could tell a story or two about that. Not to mention footballers' wives."

And former girlfriends of former clubmates, too.

If Chelsea's trip to Turf Moor had a gripping subplot, the narrative plodded along in humdrum fashion. Nicolas Anelka nudged the Premier League leaders ahead, Steven Fletcher equalised and Terry, earlier booked for barging over Robbie Blake, provided the final twist in the tale.



ADVERSITY

Brian Laws presided over his fourth successive defeat since replacing Owen Coyle as Burnley manager yet, as his new team hurtle back towards the Championship, he does not appear unduly troubled. As he said, also in the match programme: "You see the window to the soul in adversity. I have learned a great deal already."

Terry does not appear capable of learning from the errors of his ways, but he and Chelsea will plough on through the moral maze regardless.

Manchester United dropped three points away to Burnley and Arsenal two. "Maybe this is a sign of the destiny of the Premier League title," Ancelotti mused.

In football's steamy jungle, that is all that really matters.

© The Times, London


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