Terry relieved to be a central figure again in Chelsea’s plans
Experienced defender back in favour under old boss Jose Mourinho as Blues face tricky Schalke test
Chelsea’s John Terry addresses the media during a press conference in Dusseldorf yesterday ahead of the Champions League Group E soccer match against Schalke 04. Photo: Frank Augstein/AP
A conference room overlooking the runway at Dusseldorf airport made for a soulless setting as Jose Mourinho doodled on a pad at his side.
Yesterday the manager was embroiled in controversy once again as he was charged with improper conduct by the FA for being sent to the stand against Cardiff on Saturday
But John Terry offered colour of his own as he reflected on frustration and rejuvenation. There was anguished talk of last season’s toils, the determination to feel integral again very clear, with his relief obvious to be back as a mainstay of the Chelsea first team.
“My career is where it is because of this man,” said the veteran centre-half, with a nod to his manager one further along the top table.
“I’m just very proud to be working with him again. He came in and laid the law down, saying: ‘It’s pretty simple. You play well and you’re in the side. If not, you won’t play.’
“When it was announced he was coming back, I was excited. I knew I needed to hit the ground running so I came back a week early for pre-season and made sure I was ready from day one, trying to impress him.
“Thankfully that’s worked and I’m in the side. I’m happy with my form and the team is slowly getting to where we want to be.”
Terry will start against Schalke in tonight’s distinctly awkward Champions League group game, most likely alongside a recalled Gary Cahill given David Luiz’s rather lackadaisical display at the weekend, with Mourinho ever keen to tap into the captain’s influence and experience.
He had spoken last week of the 32-year-old “recovering his self-esteem” after a difficult few years with niggling injuries and frequent controversy, much of it self-inflicted, and Terry concurred.
Missing the European Cup and Europa League finals of the last two seasons still plays on his mind, generating its own motivation. The Terry who has barked orders at team-mates in recent weeks has been more the authoritative figure of old.
He may not boast pace but he can organise and inspire a side integrating young talent. He will be needed against Schalke’s own crop of bright young things.
“I was out for four or five months with the injuries, sitting there watching the lads,” he said. “That was difficult to take. But when I was playing well last year, even scoring goals, I didn’t maintain my place either. So it was quite frustrating.”
He, like Frank Lampard and the absent Ashley Cole ( rib injury) is playing for a new contract beyond the end of this season. The fact he has started every Premier League game to date bodes well.
“I’m playing now so hopefully everything else takes care of itself,” he said. “We have great belief with the manager back.”
Schalke will test their resilience, even if a lengthy injury list is hampering Jens Keller’s preparations. Midfielder Marco Hoger suffered a long-term knee injury at the weekend, and the forwards Jefferson Farfan and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar are also out.
Goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand, Jermaine Jones and Kevin-Prince Boateng will return after proving their fitness but they will be rusty. They will lean, instead, on youthful exuberance in Max Meyer, 18 and a scorer in Saturday’s win at Eintracht Braunschweig, and Germany’s Julian Draxler.
The 20-year-old was courted by Arsenal over the summer despite signing a new contract in May. Chelsea will be wary of his ability on the ball as they seek an away win that will ensure a sloppy start to this Champions League campaign, with a defeat to Basel, will be exorcised.