Chelsea vs. Arsenal: John Terry Will Thrive on Pressure in London Derby
Once again, the build-up to a weekend of Premier League football will be dominated by one player—John Terry.
It is a charge the former England skipper has always denied, and one of which a magistrates' court found him innocent back in July.
However, the burden of proof on the FA's independent panel was lower, and it ruled he had abused Ferdinand during the west London derby at Loftus Road in October 2011.
But, as the sanction is suspended subject to appeal, Terry is free to play for Chelsea when they travel to London rivals Arsenal in Saturday's lunchtime kick-off.
It is a match which is highly noteworthy and a big draw in its own right. The European champions and Premier League leaders visit an Arsenal side which could potentially be a better proposition than last season despite the loss of Robin van Persie. But all the pre-match talk will be about Terry.
Terry will be braced for plenty of abuse on Saturday—even at the relatively reserved Emirates Stadium.
The home crowd could make things very racy for an early-afternoon broadcast.
The majority of those in attendance will indulge themselves in going through their whole repertoire of unsavoury and potentially slanderous chants, punctuated only by vehement booing every time Terry touches the ball.
Things are set to be even more hostile at Chelsea's next away game in the league. There is no love lost between Chelsea and Tottenham, and even if Terry is suspended when the Blues travel there on October 20, the White Hart Lane faithful are sure to make their feelings known.
The 31-year-old—who quit international football on the eve of the FA hearing after he claimed that the governing body had made his England career "untenable"—is no stranger to being the focus of proceedings before a match, and has become highly adept at dealing with it.
The day after the tabloid scandal of an extra-marital affair with the ex-partner of former Chelsea and England teammate Wayne Bridge broke in January 2010—making him the most talked-about man in the country—Terry responded by scoring the winning goal at Burnley.
The following month, when Manchester City visited Chelsea and Terry and Bridge's paths crossed forthe first time since the scandal broke, Terry managed to look incredulous when Bridge refused to shake his hand.
The affair led to him being stripped of the England captaincy, yet still he remained an integral part of Fabio Capello's team.
At that summer's World Cup, Terry announced to the media that he would lead a player mutiny against then manager Capello. The coup proved to be a bust, as he did not have the unwavering support of the dressing room he thought he did. In spite of that, Capello eventually reinstated him as captain, and resigned when the FA went over his head and took the armband from his star defender again earlier this year in the wake of the Ferdinand case.
This latest row also featured hurt looks at withdrawn handshakes, and Terry went into Euro 2012 fully aware that a magistrate's court trial awaited him upon his return from the tournament. No matter.
Backed to the hilt by manager Roy Hodgson, Terry put in arguably his best showing at a major finals for England in Poland and Ukraine.
His international career may now be over, but he can focus fully on several more years playing for his one and only club, which he loves so much and where he is so beloved.
Terry has always been a player who seems to thrive when he is at his most despised. He is the very embodiment of the siege mentality which Jose Mourinho instilled at Chelsea, something which has brought the club so much success over the last decade and was still key component of their Champions League success last term.
Even being suspended for the Munich final didn't shake Terry's self-belief. He simply donned his playing kit anyway, and celebrated his team's triumph as though he had been out on the pitch himself that night.
Terry has always wanted to be seen as a man who doesn't shirk in the face of adversity, one who "fronts up" when the going is at its toughest. That unshakeable ego has seen him overcome many moments that would irreparably damage so many other careers.
Knowing him, he will probably score against Arsenal on Saturday, and wheel away grasping his club badge or his captain's armband in celebration.
That is why he is so adored at Chelsea and so despised almost everywhere else. And that is exactly what he thrives on.
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