There have been many low points in the career of John Terry. None lower than when he watched his penalty kick rebound off the post as he sat on the Moscow turf in 2008 having lost his footing in the run-up. Had he scored he would have lifted the Champions League trophy minutes later. He didn't, so he didn't, but after a bizarre sequence of events last week, he has a chance to do the latter in three weeks.
John Terry has his critics. They were out in force to condemn his actions in the Nou Camp on Tuesday night, and they remained vocal following UEFA's decision to allow him lift the Champions League trophy if Chelsea win in Munich next month. And as Chelsea play QPR this afternoon, reuniting himself and Anton Ferdinand, his pending case for a racially-aggravated public order offence is back in the news once again. Not for the first time in his controversial career, it's open season on Terry.
I was as bemused as anyone by his actions on Tuesday, but I couldn't help feeling sorry for him after the game. It's hard to think of a player who has given so much for his team in a competition that has been so unkind. The 'ghost goal' in one semi-final at Anfield, and the referee's performance against Barcelona at Stamford Bridge in another. The penalty shoot-out defeat in the 2008 final and now this, which on a personal level for Terry, must be devastating.
He can stick to the 'I'm just happy for the lads, it's not about me' line as much as he likes, but it must be one of the most disappointing moments of his career.
Post-match discussions about how he thought he would get away with it or why he decided to act like that in a game of that importance miss the point entirely. This implies that there was thought of any kind preceding what he did. It was a moment of sporting insanity which was always going to end the way it did, but his timing could hardly have been worse.
Those types of exchanges happened regularly when I played. I was the recipient of many a boot in the arse by centre-halves when they thought nobody was watching. Back then, players would remain on their feet and wait for an opportunity to exact some revenge of their own. I did this on many occasions myself, but the game has moved on since. Barcelona players, like most others, just go down. And Terry, like all others who get caught, looks incredibly foolish as a result.
I can understand the criticism for his actions, but not the response to the prospect of him lifting the trophy. Frank Lampard remarked after the game that Terry would be the right person to do so, and UEFA announced on Friday they would allow it. One London paper described the decision as 'grotesque' on Friday, while another called it an insult to every player and fan he let down in Barcelona. It was widely suggested that Terry was pushing for the undeserved honour of lifting the cup, but I haven't seen the source of this claim anywhere.
Terry embodies many of the qualities most fans demand of their players. The majority of his failings in the eyes of the public are for indiscretions in his life away from the field, but I have written on these pages many times before that matches are not decided by this. His remarkable ability to persevere in the face of adversity (often self-inflicted, admittedly), his bravery on the field and his relentless hunger for success are overlooked by those who find his behaviour morally objectionable. And, before you say it, he has yet to be found guilty of anything in the Anton Ferdinand case.
Which brings us back to the important issue of handshakes ahead of today's game. Ferdinand's lawyers are said to have advised him against shaking Terry's hand because of potential legal ramifications. So, desperate to avoid scenes where grown men may walk past each other without acknowledging one another, and the public outcry that would inevitably follow from such an obscenity in full view of impressionable children, the Premier League have called off the pre-match handshake convention.
The decision was taken due to the "potential and specific legal context" of the case which is due to be heard in court on July 9. This will hopefully limit our discussions to what happens during the 90 minutes instead.
There's a fair chance I wouldn't be mates with John Terry if he lived next door, but players should not be judged on such terms. If his team-mates want him to lift the trophy then he has every right to do so. On purely sporting grounds, I can't think of one Chelsea player more deserving.
Sunday Indo Sport