By Greg Stobart
History tells us that the controversial England career of John Terry was never going to end well, and on Sunday night he announced his retirement from international football claiming the Football Association had made his position “untenable”.
Yet as much as Terry says it breaks his heart to quit England after nine years and 78 caps, he is unlikely to get much sympathy from the football community or the greater public.
And nor does he deserve any.
Terry’s announcement was cynically timed on the eve of an FA investigation into allegations he racially abused Anton Ferdinand during a match between Chelsea and QPR at Loftus Road last October.
It is reasonable to assume that Terry is aware of the FA’s 99.5 per cent conviction rate in disciplinary cases, so has decided to jump before being pushed by the results of this week’s hearing.
Terry’s frustration is understandable in some ways. He was acquitted at Westminster magistrates’ court in July of a racially aggravated public order offence as the judge, Howard Riddle, ruled there was not enough evidence - beyond reasonable doubt - to support a conviction.
The standard of proof in the FA charge, however, is the balance of probabilities, and the governing body surely has a duty to hold its own inquiry when a high profile player - Terry was England captain at the time - is accused of calling a fellow professional a “black ****”.
Terry is in no position to paint himself as the victim given the number of times he has embarrassed the FA, twice losing the captaincy and with the Ferdinand fallout resulting in Fabio Capello’s resignation in protest in February.
Untenable? Terry has been backed more than he might have reasonably expected. The FA allowed both Capello and his successor, Roy Hodgson, to select the 31-year-old, with his inclusion in the Euro 2012 coming at the expense of Rio Ferdinand, the older brother of Anton.
Nobody accepted Hodgson’s explanation of “footballing reasons” for the decision, with the truth being that Ferdinand and Terry would be unable to share a dressing room. The England manager chose Terry, and recently suggested that he hoped the Chelsea captain would be cleared by the FA’s independent panel.
Terry has been involved in too many embarrassing situations, not least when allegations emerged that he had an affair with the ex-girlfriend of England team-mate Wayne Bridge.
Capello responded by stripping Terry of the captaincy before returning the armband to him in 2011. You always know with Terry, though, that the next controversy is not far away. Arrogant, self-important, crass - many view him as the embodiment of an ego-driven modern footballer who is out of touch with the public.
Once the Crown Prosecution Service decided to charge Terry in February over the incident at Loftus Road, the FA chairman David Bernstein felt he had no choice to withdraw the captaincy once again given the high profile nature of the position and the huge potential for embarrassment.
Terry still went to Euro 2012, however, and performed well, as he did for most of his international career. And in a pure football sense, his absence will be a loss to the Three Lions.
But it won’t leave the black hole the player himself would hope and expect.
It may be an unseemly end to the tale but Terry wanted the last word having tried and failed to get the FA to drop their charges - the same ones that saw Luis Suarez banned for eight matches and fined £40,000 for racially insulting Patrice Evra at Anfield, also last October.
There will be few tears, not even in the England camp where Terry has split the dressing room with his actions.
And the last word? Expect that to be provided by the FA when their four-man independent panel reaches its judgement.
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