Injury, loss of form and off-field controversies have clouded the seasons of two iconic figures of English football but the Wembley showpiece offers both a shot at redemption
By James Goldman | Deputy Editor
As the English footballing landscape continues to change at pace nothing can be regarded as sacrosanct - not even the kick-off time of the FA Cup final, it would seem.
That either Steven Gerrard or John Terry will lift one of the sport’s most famous trophies on Saturday evening will, therefore, provide a feeling of comforting familiarity.
The last nine months have shown the Premier League battlefield in its most uncompromising light - an unforgiving environment for those weak of body and mind.
There is little room to accommodate brave visionaries, as Andre Villas-Boas would no doubt testify; while the demise of Mick McCarthy at Wolves demonstrates that even battle-scarred veterans will be callously left behind should they fail to deliver.
Try as Chelsea, and to an extent Liverpool, might to cut their ties with the past and build for the future, it’s a testament to the survival skills of Gerrard and Terry that a decade of gunslinging has done little to diminish their value and influence. Until now.
|GERRARD v TERRY
|0||PREMIER LEAGUE WINS
|2||FA CUP WINS
|3||LEAGUE CUP WINS
|1||CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINS||0|
|3||OTHER MAJOR TROPHIES
This season alone has brought upheaval, controversy and physical pain in quantities that would have finished off lesser mortals – Gerrard and Terry, however, remain unabashed, unbowed and still standing as the totemic leaders who will proudly lead their sides out at Wembley in front 90,000 fans and a global TV audience.
And yet, where these two warhorses are concerned, there feels something final about this final. Liverpool’s spending last summer hinted at an acceptance that Gerrard cannot go on forever, a fact borne out by the infrequency of his appearances this season.
Still capable of producing the picture-perfect moments of which his £20 million heir apparent Jordan Henderson could scarcely dream – witness his hat-trick in February’s Merseyside derby – they are starting to represent the final brushstrokes, the finishing touches to a masterpiece that has been 14 years in the making.
Already it could be argued that, despite his questionable character, Luis Suarez has this season usurped Gerrard as his side’s man most likely, while Liverpool’s league campaign has been afflicted by the injury which has kept Lucas Leiva out of action since November just as much as it has by the unavailability of their skipper.
Furthermore, a quirk of science it might be, but as of April 12, before Liverpool’s trip to Blackburn, Kenny Dalglish’s side had won 48 per cent of matches without Gerrard, a figure that dropped to nine per cent when he was in the side.
Likewise, after their spirited rearguard action against Barcelona it would appear that the presence of John Terry is no longer imperative for Chelsea, whose air of impregnability under Jose Mourinho was largely built on their skipper’s granite-like qualities.
|"Despite his questionable character, Luis Suarez has this season usurped Gerrard as his side’s man most likely, while Liverpool’s league campaign has been most afflicted by the injury which has kept Lucas Leiva out of action since November"|
The idea of Roberto Di Matteo’s men being able to shut out Lionel Messi and his arty cohorts minus their disgraced captain a fortnight ago seemed fanciful but, like FA Cup final kick-offs, times are a-changing.
The significant outlay on centre-halves Gary Cahill and David Luiz over the last 18 months and the increased dependency on the versatile Branislav Ivanovic suggests, like with Gerrard at Liverpool, Chelsea acknowledge that Terry’s impression of Monty Python’s Black Knight, who treated severed limbs as minor flesh wounds, cannot be sustained.
None of this is to say that either man is washed up and ready for the scrapheap. On the contrary, both are designed and programmed to withstand the pressure of the big occasion.
Saturday’s showpiece provides Terry and Gerrard with an opportunity to end the most troubled seasons of their esteemed careers on highs – it would take a brave man to bet against one having a decisive say in matters.
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