It was an act of selfishness, which borders on cowardice. Abandoning England for reasons that place personal politics over personal responsibility will tarnish what was a glossy international career.
Terry announced his international retirement less than 24 hours before facing potential disciplinary action from Football Association (FA) — the same body that runs the national team program.
The FA charged Terry with racially abusing Queens Park Rangers’ Anton Ferdinand during a Premier League game last October, despite the fact that he was acquited of doing so by a court of law in July. Terry freely admits that he is walking away from the national team in response to the FA charge.
“I am today announcing my retirement from international football,” he said in a statement. “I am making his 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.”
Terry’s stated reasons can only be interpreted one way: If the FA continues what Terry’s camp considers to be a witch hunt, the player will no longer serve the organization. It is unknown if the former England captain is trying to turn himself into a sympathetic figure, make the FA look bad or influence the disciplinary process. Any, all or none of these motives could be driving his decision.
Four standout games at Euro 2012 showed that Terry still has a lot to offer the national team, and most assumed he was willing to continue his international career. The FA charged Terry in late July, but he played for England as recently as September 7. If the charge makes his position so “untenable” that he can no longer play for his country, why has he decided to retire now instead of back in July?
What is clear is that Terry’s was a political act, which launches a salvo at a political organization. Like any FA, England’s favors some figures (players and coaches) more than others from time to time. Terry ran afoul of the higher-ups over the Ferdinand affair, and the board stripped him of the captaincy (for a second time) back in February. Rather walking away in protest, like former manager Fabio Capello, Terry continued. But the FA’s unwillingness to drop the charge seems to be the final straw in the relationship between Terry and the powers that be.
But someone should remind Terry that he plays for England and not the FA. He has been rightfully praised for giving his body and soul to England for nearly a decade, but the national team needs its best center back to play through the 2014 FIFA World Cup. England does not have another central defender with Terry’s talent and experience. Joleon Lescottt, Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka are in their peak years, but none can match the pedigree of the 31-year-old Terry. Phil Jones, 20, and Chris Smalling, 22, could be the central pairing of the future, but they won’t be ready to step into the breach and lead England in World Cup knockout games in June 2014. In fact, having Terry as a mentor for the next couple of years would help them at the international level and improve England’s chances of competing for honors in the future.
Playing in a third World Cup would have cemented Terry’s place among England’s all-time greats — regardless of what the public thinks about him as a man. His international career started so proudly on the field at Walkers Stadium in Leicester, England back in 2003. It ended meekly behind a keyboard on Sunday.
Terry’s fans boast of him having the heart of lion. Wouldn’t they expect him to hold his feet in the fire, accept his disciplinary fate and make others decide when he’s no longer useful to his country? Terry is letting England manager Roy Hodgson and his England teammtes down. Bowing out at this time, for this reason stains an on-field legacy that he worked so hard to build.
A former coach of mine once said “it’s not feeling pain that makes one a coward. It’s flinching in anticipation of pain that makes one a coward.” Step forward, John Terry.