The Fall and Rise of John Terry and Chelsea FC

Stephanie NorrisCorrespondent IMay 22, 2008

Someone needs to break the silence…

...though what is there to say? Didn’t the look on Terry’s face say it all?  

When he pulled his head off of Tal Ben-Haim's shoulder—eyes still closed, jaw clenched, forehead veins pulsing—didn’t that blurry-eyed look say it all? 

In the salty, weighted mixture of rain, sweat, and tears that poured from his weary eyes were the crumbled dreams of a defender, an attacker, a father, a son, a leader, motivator, spokesman, gentleman, and friend. 

The streaming flood of heartache and fatigue showed the human side of a man who has not only worn the Chelsea name since his youth, but who is the Chelsea name—the spine, the backbone, the soul.

Like a work of art, painted across his canvas were the angst, disappointment, letdown, and realization of billions of supporters across many continents. Of a Chelsea nation, of an entire squad, and of a lone Captain. The Chelsea Rock—and with it, the Chelsea dream—had shattered.

I’ve never been a fan who was so blinded by blue that I was left unable to admit when Chelsea was the weaker team. This season, our loss to Tottenham wasn’t a fluke—they wanted it more. Our loss to Barnsley was justified—our opponents earned it. And squeaking by Middlesbrough was nothing short of a gift.

But being able to acknowledge worthier opponents invites distress and dissatisfaction. It leaves the door open for “should haves,” “could haves,” and “what ifs,” that ultimately swings back and smacks you in the face, when a win is unjustly corralled from the ring above your head and yanked from underneath the grave, slippery ground.

To lose a match that was never ours would make it easier to point fingers and lay blame. But to lose a cup that we deserved, to outperform our opponents, to repeatedly hit the woodwork, to let them skate by on penalties alone and lose this cup that we deservedly earned the right to hoist makes the match all the more poignant.

The loss may be the same, but the hurt is monumentally different.

It is singular, it is outstanding. It is an exclamation point on a season that, on paper, reads as nothing more than a series of almost, so-close, and not enough. 

It was an almost Carling Cup title that Tottenham stole away. It was a so-close in the points race that let Manchester narrowly take the Premiership. And it was a not-enough, 6-5 penalty kick score that again let Manchester United marginally triumph for the UEFA title.

It is a harsh reminder of history repeating—of a similar 1994 4-0 FA Cup unmerited loss in the same pouring rain to the same red-shirted opponent.

But the fact is, a season is more than just a piece of paper with recorded scores, wins and losses, goals and fouls. A season is more than just a piece of paper with tabloid reports, with staff changes, with hastily scribbled player uncertainties. 

A season is a collection of emotions, pep talks, and desire. It is the summation of unity, of rebuilding, of growth, all in the face of instability, injury, and even death.

Our 2007-08 season can be described as nothing short of spectacular. We watched a team weighted by criticism and sceptics rise from the ashes adjoined by the hearts on their sleeves. To crumble would have been expected, but for our Chelsea boys, it also would have been too easy.

No, this season certainly was not easy, for players or for fans. But, in the true Chelsea spirit, it was thrilling, electrifying, inspiring. 

The '07-08 dream may have ended, but the Chelsea flag flies high. After all, there is no better trophy to hoist. 

Through rain or shine, victory or defeat, the blue flag endures, and with it, the proud history of a remarkable club.

In July 2007, Real Madrid’s Christoph Metzelder told World Soccer Magazine that John Terry is a communicator and organizer “who obviously cares deeply about his club.” Coach Avram Grant resonated these thoughts and referred to Terry as a “bionic man.”

Chelsea fans have always known both. It takes true strength of character to step up confidently as the fifth shooter (as echoed by Frank Lampard in his post-match interview), and JT did so without hesitation. 

His slip-up was exactly that—a slip-up.  The ground was soaked—nothing more, nothing less. He is human, after all.

And so, for tonight, we must be content to let our Rock be human. We must let him publicly weep, deny interviews, and crumble into the ground. The harsh rain, in fact, made Terry seem a bit closer to God, to a success unjustly measured by a lone victory, now washed away into the Russian soil. Our hero may have fallen, but that’s the great thing about heroes. 

They rise.

We must allow him, and the entire squad, to grieve—but we cannot grieve for them. We must be here, waiting, with flags flying, seats filled, and arms wide open, ready to embrace our boys when those tears are wiped away. 

They have put in the hours, done their work, proved their worthiness as players and as men. Now, it is their turn to rest, and our turn to work. Let us, the true blue and white army, stand by their glory and point towards the stars. Let us lead the march until our boys are ready to start the steps themselves towards next season’s dreams. 

After all, there will be another match, another season, and even another dream—a rehabilitated one. Let us help our soldiers rise to meet it with grace and confidence.

In those tears, Terry managed to encompass it all—the player and club and fans, the match and season and history, the despair and let down and second best.

The outpouring of tears feeding the ground will spring a new season of rebirth and renewal. Not to do over, but to make right. To repaint the canvas. 

They will be there, and so will we.


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