Since making the decision to retire from international football in September 2012, Chelsea captain John Terry has never expressed an inclination, at least publicly, that he would ever consider a return to the England fold.
Terry’s announcement came in the closing stages of the acrimonious saga surrounding the alleged racial abuse of Queens Park Rangers’ defender Anton Ferdinand. Cleared of any wrongdoing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in July, the Chelsea and former England captain made the decision to retire when it became apparent that the Football Association were still intending to sanction him. In doing so, Terry argued that his position in the national side had become “untenable”.
When asked upon the matter as recently as February, England manager Roy Hodgson ruled out any attempt to try and persuade the defender to return. In a firm statement upon the matter, Hodgson remarked that “as far as I’m concerned, retirement is retirement.” Unlike his predecessor Fabio Capello, who successfully convinced Jamie Carragher to board the plane to South Africa, the England manager made it clear that there would be no attempt to coax the former England captain out of retirement.
So, why is this even a topic for discussion?
Well, the announcement of Hodgson’s latest England squad for the friendly fixture against Denmark highlighted a real dearth of genuine international quality in his options at centre back. The clean sheet failed to disguise a shaky performance from the pairing of Gary Cahill and Chris Smalling. Granted, the likes of Phil Jagielka, Phil Jones and Joleon Lescott were all absent from selection for one reason or another. But none of Hodgson’s potential pairings in that area of the field possess the experience or quality at international level that previous England sides have been able to call upon. Any combination of the aforementioned players or Steven Caulker do not match the class of options that were available to Capello or Sven-Goran Eriksson.
It also just so happens that John Terry is currently enjoying an excellent campaign in the eyes of many journalists and pundits. Match of the Day host Gary Lineker suggested that the defensive partnership of Terry and Cahill from club level was the “best option by far” for England too. Martin Samuel from the Daily Mail even went so far as to argue that if it wasn’t for the Chelsea captain’s notoriety and reputation, he would surely be a shoo-in for the Player of the Year award.
For many, Terry embodied the bravery and passion that every player should demonstrate when they pull on an England shirt. Irrespective of his many personal dramas, fans respected the way that the defender gave everything for the national cause and showed the commitment that many other footballers are often accused of lacking. Perhaps the famous attempt to clear a Slovenian strike on goal with his head at the 2010 World Cup symbolised everything positive that Terry brought to the English cause.
However, doesn’t any attempt to convince a 33 year old, twice dismissed former England captain to return from a self-imposed exile smack of desperation?
It would be downright stupid for the FA or Hodgson to actively pursue and welcome such a disruptive influence back into the national set-up, regardless of how well he is playing.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that the racism charges were not the only controversies that Terry brought into the England fold. This was a player that allegedly slept with international teammate Wayne Bridge’s girlfriend in an incident which saw him stripped of the captaincy for the first time. Even before that, the centre back was temporarily banned from national selection in 2002 in an almost forgotten case where he was tried and ultimately cleared of assault and affray.
The furore surrounding the racism charges was the damaging final straw in a long list of hugely disruptive misdemeanours. The episode ripped the national set-up apart with the resignation of Capello, the installation of another new captain and the raising of tensions in the squad itself between Ashley Cole and Rio Ferdinand. It would be ludicrous for the FA or Hodgson to even consider revisiting the debris of this destructive affair.
Any recall for Terry would also send out a hugely negative message to Hodgson’s current centre back options. To fall behind in the pecking order to a 33 year old in self-imposed exile with a track record such as the Chelsea captain’s would be disheartening to say the least.
A return for Terry could only ever be a fix for the short-term and with the construction of St George’s Park finally completed, isn’t it about time the FA and Hodgson began planning for the future? The so called “Golden Generation”, of whom Terry was a prominent member of, failed to deliver on numerous occasions for England and it is about time the country moved on from this group.
Unless Terry declares an intention to revoke his international retirement, then the topic of potential return for England should remain a dead issue. No matter how well he may play, the former England captain will bring far too much baggage and ultimately do more harm than good.