Chelsea captain John Terry has retired from international football on the eve of a Football Association disciplinary hearing into the infamous allegations surrounding his altercation with Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand last year.
Terry was cleared of a racially aggravated public order offence in the courts in July, but the FA hearing – which has a lower burden of proof – carries just as serious a potential punishment. Terry’s England career ends with 78 caps to his name and two spells as captain, both of which came to an end in controversial circumstances. It’s fair to say that there will be plenty of England fans who aren’t sad to see the back of him despite a strong showing at UEFA Euro 2012.
Terry’s retirement was announced through Chelsea this evening and is supposedly a response to the FA’s decision to charge the former England captain. He has stated that the hearing makes his position “untenable”, which makes the timing of this announcement all the more curious.
Why, if his sole reason for quitting England is the FA charge, did Terry not retire in the hours after the hearing was confirmed rather than the hours before it will occur? One has to wonder whether Terry has been advised as to the likely outcome and has chosen to fall on his sword rather than let the FA use it to cut off his head. Only time will tell on that front.
Either way, being charged is certainly the reason for Terry’s decision. Sky News has a portion of his statement:
“I am making this statement today in advance of the hearing of the FA disciplinary charge because I feel the FA, in pursuing charges against me where I have already been cleared in a court of law, have made my position with the national team untenable.”
It’s a curious statement in the circumstances. Terry’s position has arguably been untenable for some time because of this ongoing issues, but it has not caused him to give his notice until now. The statement appears to suggest that Terry’s problem is not that his position is untenable, but that his position has been unfairly made difficult by the FA’s decision to charge him after the court case that cleared him of the offence in law.
It raises once again the intriguing matter of boundaries and overlaps between judicial and football jurisdiction. Terry’s apparent assertion is that he has been proved not guilty in court, and the FA should therefore let the matter lie. It is an argument that could be said to have logic on its side, but equally it is true that football must be allowed to deal with internal matters so long as the legal proceedings outside the game are not prejudiced as a result.
It is inevitable that much will be made of Terry’s previous comments about not retiring from international duty as a result of the fallout from the incident and “I’ll never turn my back on England” is a statement likely to be aired frequently over the coming days, but everyone can be clever in hindsight. We’ve all changed our minds or endured a change in circumstance, and we will all change our minds in the future.
For better or worse, England will be a different beast without their former skipper. He is a thoroughly unpopular character among fans of other clubs and therefore a divisive issue among England’s support.
On top of his reputation and our opinions of his personal life and conduct, Terry has become part of the debate about England’s need to adopt a more long-term approach. At 31 and with his powers arguably waning, some observers – myself included – would prefer to see younger players thrown in now in order to pick up the experience required to shine in major tournaments.
Terry’s departure will be celebrated in some quarters and reflected upon more solemnly in others. But however we feel about it, it could prove to be just the beginning of a difficult week for the Chelsea man.
(Photo credit: Julian Mason via Flickr)