Monday 18 December 2017

Gary Neville: John Terry must not be allowed to go the way of Steven Gerrard

Chelsea skipper still has plenty to offer Mourinho and club

John Terry was taken off at half-time during Chelsea’s defeat against Manchester City
John Terry was taken off at half-time during Chelsea’s defeat against Manchester City

Gary Neville

There are steps you can walk down, or there is a cliff you can fall straight off. I suggest Chelsea and John Terry use the steps, because he should be a vital presence over the next three seasons, irrespective of the embarrassment he will have felt at being taken off at half-time at Manchester City last weekend.

The cliff is painful, and comes at a cost: not least, potentially uprooting your family, with a fresh start late in life, at an unfamiliar club, or even early retirement. None of this need apply here. Jose Mourinho's challenge will be to 'transition' Terry out of the team over the next few seasons and the player himself will have to accept a reduced role: willingly, rather than as an insult.

Terry and their transfer target, John Stones, could play 25 or 35 games each for Chelsea in the transition phase. All parties would benefit. If Chelsea were to have Terry, Gary Cahill, Stones and Kurt Zouma - what a quartet of centre-backs that would be. You need four at title-winning and Champions League level, though of course Mourinho loves a settled back four.

First, a thought on the substitution itself in Man City's 3-0 win last Sunday. I had not seen a striker run away from Terry the way Sergio Aguero did in the first 15 seconds or be beaten by a ball over his head, as he was in the 35th minute, since Andre Villas-Boas made the Chelsea defence play five yards off the halfway line (a dangerously high line).


So there were worrying signs for Mourinho to deal with. But consider the other factors. First, it's early in the season, and you can be caught out fitness-wise, or make those errors. Terry, still, is a magnificent defender, for whom I have enormous respect. I played for England with him for a lot of years and love him as a player.

Across football there is mishandling of 32- to 34-year-olds. Didier Drogba was moved out of Chelsea, then brought back in. Steven Gerrard should still be at Liverpool. There is no way he should be kicking a football for LA Galaxy. At Liverpool on Monday night, Jordan Henderson went off injured with his team 1-0 up. Why could Gerrard not come on in those circumstances to do a job, to provide control and experience?

Staleness is a crime in football, but in a 23-man squad you need two or three stalwarts who manage the changing room, are good pros, set the standards.

Terry doesn't need advice from me, but in these situations I would always say: relax, enjoy what's to come, realise that 25 games for Chelsea is better than 45 for the Orlando Owls or the Tasmanian Tigers. Equally, Mourinho has to be happy with it and know the player will not be disruptive.

Last season we saw difficulties when Gerrard was left out by Liverpool at Real Madrid; this year we have seen Terry suffer at Man City. But the message is: 'Look, lads, it doesn't have to be like this.'

At 18, you find yourself put into a team, then pulled back out, then put back in. The cycle of a career requires acceptance and tolerance at both ends: club and player. Terry coming off in a game last week was embarrassing for him but most pros know that feeling.

It happened to me against Manchester City, just after half-time. I'll always remember thinking: 'I want to be at home. I don't want people looking at me. I don't want to speak to people.' I recall sitting in Alex Ferguson's office the following Monday morning for one of the longest meetings I ever had with him. He told me why he wasn't happy with my performance. But the next half-hour of the chat was about where I stood in the team, my future at the club - in a positive sense.

It's all about man management. There is no need for this black and white distinction: in the team or out; an important player still or finished.

There is a reason why Ryan Giggs played until he was 40 and Paul Scholes made it to 38. They accepted the shift into a different phase of their career: a change Gerrard struggled to accept last season. It was a challenge, too, to Frank Lampard at Chelsea.

So Mourinho hooking Terry at the Etihad has already led to this heated speculation about the demise of Terry and inevitable friction with the manager. There is no need for it.

If Chelsea were to sign a John Stones, Terry becomes the most important player at Chelsea for the next three seasons. If Stones could watch Terry in games 15 times a season and in training three times a week then his own development will be greatly enhanced.

To stay at the club where you belong sounds better to me than wandering around the world to prolong your career. Terry should be at Chelsea until he is 36, 37 years of age. He might play only 20 games a season but they will be 20 very important ones; and the 200 training sessions will be crucial to the squad in maintaining that winning mentality.

There could be a situation brewing, too, for City and Yaya Toure. In the Chelsea game Toure was wilting after about 65 minutes. He has a vital role now at City. If he plays every Wednesday, every Saturday - and Manuel Pellegrini feels he has to pick him - it will be to the team's detriment.

It will cost them points. He has to be used in a clever manner, so his performances hit 100 per cent, which is better than playing more games but at 75 per cent. Once you get past 32 or 33 that is the choice.

I probably spoke to Sir Alex one-on-one more in my last two years than in my first 15 at Old Trafford. He was constantly managing me, saying: 'Look son, you won't be playing this weekend but I'll need you in a week's time. There's a big job for you to do here. Have a chat with Rafael and look after him.' The communication line was open.

So I hope John Terry and Mourinho have been sitting down. I hope they've had a laugh together. I hope they've talked it through - and that Terry is pulling the dressing room around him after a turbulent couple of weeks for the club.

It's about acceptance and consultation. It cannot be that Terry either: a) plays every game, or: b) leaves the club.

Jose Mourinho needs John Terry and John Terry needs Jose Mourinho. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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