Monday, September 24, 2012

Terry's exit a death foretold

John Terry had no option in the end.

The England captain had to walk the plank rather than remain as national skipper and be branded a racist by the Football Association, the overseers of and ultimate authority for the country's team.

Despite being cleared by a criminal court two months ago, Terry realised the FA's decision to call a disciplinary hearing over his verbal abuse of Anton Ferdinand last season would have left him guilty, given the enquiry's use of a balance of probability to decide guilt instead of the law courts' adherence to beyond reasonable doubt.

The FA had little choice either given they had already banned Luis Suarez over the same offence last season.

Had Terry stayed put and been found guilty, not only would he have faced a ban but threatening storms would have gathered around England manager Roy Hodgson, who already rode a minor storm in selecting the Chelsea man for Euro 2012. Managers usually stay loyal to their players but the FA would have been the only winner and Terry's exclusion the only outcome.

Terry's off-field behaviour had already accounted for Fabio Capello, who stood down rather than be overruled by the FA over Terry's captaincy following an affair with teammate Wayne Bridge's partner.

Plunging another England manager into trouble would have been unthinkable.

While nobody seems sure where to draw the line at a footballer's private life and how much of a message it sends, clearly Terry had overstepped the mark one time too many for an England captain. The only surprise was that he took so long to announce his retirement.

Terry completes his national service with 78 caps and a number of sterling performances, most recently at Euro 2012, when he made several goal-saving blocks and a goal-line clearance against Ukraine. He had recently showed signs of slowing down but aged 31 had more international games in him and remained the best centre-back England possessed.

Hodgson has more rebuilding to do.

- Sean O'Conor

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