As Roy Hodgson ponders over the next few weeks who will be in and out of his squad to play Ireland and Brazil at the end of the season, one player in particular appears to have put his face back in the frame for selection; Marmite man John Terry. Despite retiring officially from England duty in September 2012, speculation in the media is rife that the 32 year old Chelsea captain is ready to represent the Three Lions once more, nine months after receiving a four match ban from the FA for racially abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand. The return of Terry may seem unlikely, but ultimately it is something Roy Hodgson certainly has to consider.
Firstly looking at England’s current centre back options the argument had to be made that if there isn’t room for Terry, Hodgson has to make room. In little more than over twelve months time England will be, hopefully, flying out to Brazil to compete in the 2014 world cup, with potentially the weakest defence they have had in years. Phil Jones, touted, and perhaps rightly so for some impressive performances this season, has by and large played in midfield for Manchester United this season, whilst Joleon Lescott’s position at Manchester City has been snatched by young Matija Nastasic. Chris Smalling has featured only fifteen times in the Premier League this season for the Champions, and Phil Jagielka has never played in Europe. John Terry whether you like it or not, has consistently featured for Chelsea since returning from injury at least once a week, thanks to their congested fixture list, and has a wealth of experience that England cannot afford to not utilise. If England want to reach the final stages of an international tournament or even qualify for the World Cup, they would be unwise to ignore what Terry brings to the table.
On the other hand, unfortunately John Terry brings more to the table than just his experience and leadership. Terry is also a divisive figure. Twice England captain, twice removed, bringing Terry back into the fold may serve to undermine the position of Steven Gerrard, and raise questions about the dressing room dynamics. It could also prove to the nail in Hodgson’s coffin should it not work out and England fail to qualify for Brazil 2014. Terry wouldn’t so much rock the boat but capsize it, something Hodgson may not be willing to risk.
However whilst this view maybe popular it is not necessarily true. Although Terry is not the most likeable character in football, it is important that we do not overplay this argument. Terry clearly has allies within the squad, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard obvious examples, but also star striker Wayne Rooney, who Terry was pictured having a cosy chat with on the touchline at Old Trafford on Sunday. Furthermore do we really expect grown professionals to be unable to put aside their grievances for the good of the team? After all, Ryan Giggs had an affair with his brother’s wife and I am sure nobody has lost any respect for him in the Manchester United dressing room.
A further convincing argument as to why there is no room for John Terry in the England Squad is founded in moral principles. England quite simply should not select a player who has been punished by the FA for a racially aggravated offence against a fellow professional. Whilst I can sympathise with this view, is it really strong enough for us not to select one of England’s best defenders? It appears that Uruguay have had no problem with selecting Luis Suarez in their side, and he too was found guilty of the same offence as Terry. There is no international condemnation every time Luis Suarez pulls on the Uruguay jersey so why should Terry be deprived from representing his country also? Failure to pick Terry on moral grounds would only serve to benefit the other countries that England will be competing against in the World Cup. I believe the term is cutting off your nose to spite your face.
Perhaps ultimately the best reason why there is no room for Terry in the England squad is that he is not a first choice regular at Stamford Bridge under Rafa Benitez. For instance the 32 year old sat out Chelsea’s elimination to Manchester City in the FA Cup and has found himself playing more often on Thursday nights as opposed to the weekends. Terry is also 32 and there is no guarantee in a years time he will be fit enough to play all of England’s games in Brazil. In 2010 Capello selected Ledley King only for him to sit out the tournament through injury. But again whilst a strong argument, as mentioned previously England do not have an embarrassment of riches in central defence. The likelihood is whoever Hodgson chooses will not be playing regularly, or as regularly as we would like for their club, and so Terry is no different. Finally, ‘JT’ is no Ledley King, he is not on an individual training program (like Rio Ferdinand) and although he may not play every game the organisational skills and experience he will bring could prove invaluable.
In short, John Terry and controversy are inseparable and thus the question of whether there is room in the England squad for the disgraced former captain will rage right up until Hodgson makes his selections. Whilst personally I do not expect Terry to be called up based on perhaps his falling down the pecking order at the Bridge and his prickly relationship with the FA, I do not feel his place in the squad is as one sided as people may have you believe.
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