Chelsea captain John Terry is nearing the end of his 19th and final season with the club – he is expected to retire when his contract expires in June – but a damning statistic following the weekend’s red card against Peteborough suggests it could now effectively be over already.
Terry was given his marching orders for a professional foul during the FA Cup third round tie at Stamford Bridge after being left terribly exposed by a lack of pace and mobility.
It was Chelsea’s first red card of the season, while the club’s last of 2015/16 was also shown to Terry – the result of two yellow cards, both for late tackles in a defeat against Sunderland in May.
And of Chelsea’s last six red cards, exactly half have been shown to Terry. He could have no complaints after pulling back West Brom forward Salomon Rondon in the opening weeks of last season – another instance where his decreasing mobility was the key factor.
3 – Three of the last six red cards for Chelsea have been shown to John Terry; including each of the last two. Bath.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) 8. siječnja 2017.
The former England skipper played all 38 of Chelsea’s Premier League games as recently as 2014/15 when the Premier League title last made its way to the blue corner of west London.
But his game-time fell dramatically last season and he’s badly struggled for fitness in 2016/17.
Even when available, manager Antonio Conte has preferred other options, with Terry having to make do with opportunities in a rotated team, such as against Peterborough. It seems unlikely that Conte will put much trust in his captain’s physical ability again this season.
There are echoes in Terry’s situation of the end of ex-Manchester United and England full-back Gary Neville’s career after he realised midway through the 2010/11 season that his ageing and failing body could no longer do what his brain asked of it.
In the years since, Neville has always been very open about the moment he knew he was finished – a game on New Year’s Day against West Brom during which he had deserved to be sent off for a last-man challenge and denying a clear goalscoring opportunity.
As he later recalled for the Daily Mail, sitting in the toilets at the Hawthorns at half-time, Neville said, “It wasn’t the way I’d have chosen to finish, but I knew for certain that this was my last game.
“I just wanted to get home, to disappear. I’d been really poor in the first half, but that hadn’t stopped the fans singing my name. I was making Jerome Thomas look like Ronaldo.”
He knew it was over, and maybe that thought will soon be crossing Terry’s mind, too.