With the Chelsea and England great departing the Blues, Khel Now looks back at the defender’s 22 years of service at Stamford Bridge…

On the 26th minute of the last game, Sunderland kicked the ball out of the pitch to give one final tribute to a man who has made 717 appearances for Chelsea football club. The No. 26 was the club captain for the most part of the decade. Here are some excerpts from the central defender’s final speech in the Blue jersey. The captain lifter the 15th trophy in his long club career. 

Terry started, “Firstly before I start, I want to call somebody up. Steve Holland, where are you? It is also Steve’s last game today and let me tell you, he has been a different class. This man led the team and we wish him and Gareth Southgate all the success in the future. Today is, without a doubt, one of the most difficult days of my life.”

He continued, getting a little more emotional, “I have been very fortunate to work with some unbelievable managers and players throughout my career. I am so thankful to every single one of you. I think we all have to thank Mr Roman Abramovich. I personally want to thank him and the board, for me the best owner in world football without a doubt.”

“Roman, on behalf of myself, the club and the supporters, thank you very much,” went on Terry, into the last phase of his speech, “I want to thank my wife and my kids for supporting me on this amazing journey I have had. Thank you, I love you. Lastly, you guys the fans. The best supporters in the world without a doubt. You have given me everything. From the age of 14 when I signed, you picked me up when I was down, you sang my name when I had bad games and disappointed you. Thank you will never ever be enough. I am going to come back here one day, supporting this team.”

The Tribute to arguably the finest defender of the Premier League era

Aristotle had an immortal saying – “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”

Football has thrown up several players who have lived up to this saying and have gone down in the modern game’s history as one of the greatest. Paolo Maldini. Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Steven Gerrard, Francesco Totti, Gianluigi Buffon are just some of the names in this illustrious list.

England has had the fortune of a once in a generation group of players, a vast majority of which were men who were well known for putting their bodies on the line for the team. John Terry was one among them. The sole graduate from the Chelsea youth system that has had such a prolonged run in the first team, 36-year old Terry has finally announced that he would be leaving Chelsea at the end of the season. It ends a 19-year affair with the Blues for the man who has become synonymous with the modern day Chelsea – strong willed and a never-say-die attitude.

Ever since his breakthrough season in the year 2000-01, Terry has been a mainstay in the Chelsea backline alongside household names such as Marcel Desailly, Frank Lebouef, Ricardo Carvalho and William Gallas. Despite so many foreign players earning legendary status at the club, it is with Terry alone that the fans identify the club with. They see him as one of their own, from a boyhood fan to one of the most popular and consistent players in the club’s history.

John Terry won and captained Chelsea to over a dozen trophies — arguably the most successful captain in the club’s history

Such has been his importance to the team that even as of last season at the age of 35, Terry’s absence in the team meant that the backline lacked direction, leadership and that aura of impregnability. Claudio Ranieri must be given due credit for blooding the young Terry at a time when he was offered a lot more money by Roman Abramovich to buy literally any defender that he wanted. Jose Mourinho took Terry under his wing and turned him from potential to one of the most reliable centre backs England has ever had.

He was a part of Mourinho’s untouchables, the spine of players at Chelsea which saw the club win 2 Premier Leagues, 1 League Cup and an FA Cup and reached 2 Champions League semi-finals in 3 years under the Special One. Despite the Portuguese’s departure, future Chelsea bosses could not base their systems without Terry in it. Carlo Ancelotti, who led Chelsea to a domestic double in his first season, equated JT to one of the greatest ever defenders in the game, Paolo Maldini.

This coming from someone who won nearly every major honour in the European club game and managing players of the like of Maldini, Andriy Shevchenko, Alessandro Nesta and Alessandro Costacurta, was a testament to Terry’s importance to the side.

But controversy and Terry were never far off from each other. From mocking Americans just after 9/11 to getting into an affair with Wayne Bridge’s ex-wife to racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, Terry’s stellar career was spotted with incidents that threatened to derail his importance from Chelsea and England’s history.

But these never took away the performances of the warrior on the pitch. Every Chelsea fan will recall Terry’s heroic diving header to clear the ball from the box after which Abou Diaby’s attempt to win the ball ended up with the Englishman getting the full force of Diaby’s kick full on his face. The towering header against Barcelona in the 2004-05 Champions League Round of 16 to send the Blues through laid down the marker of Chelsea as a dominant European force. Blues fans rarely broke a sweat about conceding a goal as long as their skipper was around.

Off the field antics aside, Terry is regarded as one of the best defenders in the modern game and is loved by the Chelsea faithful

The infamous slip in the Champions League final at Moscow in 2008 will forever haunt Terry. But the mental strength that Terry has in droves, saw him recover from this incident and going on to eventually bring Big Ears home in 2012 where he and fellow stalwarts Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba pulled Chelsea through to the winning podium in Munich.

His role this season was expected to be minimal especially with Conte’s 3-4-3 formation turning a moderate start to the season into a potentially title-winning one. But the Italian never ruled out the captain’s contribution to the club and always referred to him as ‘our captain’, despite his limited playing time. But like many a former England great, he accepted his reduced role with dignity and professionalism and has set an example to numerous youngsters in the famed Chelsea academy.

Chelsea’s run to the FA Cup final and being placed at pole position to win the Premier League will be a fitting tribute to JT, being the winner that he is. Chelsea will no doubt look to retain his services in a non-playing role, as his experience and knowledge will be invaluable to both the current crop of players, administration and the youngsters at the academy.

But once he leaves, money cannot ever buy what Terry has offered to this club. It is with good reason that the Blues fans refer to him as ‘Captain. Leader. Legend’, 3 words that completely define one of the greatest players to ever pull on a Chelsea shirt.