John Terry’s how’s and why’s of leadership, if anyone at Chelsea cares

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 21: John Terry and Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea celebrate following the Premier League match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on May 21, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 21: John Terry and Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea celebrate following the Premier League match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on May 21, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images) /

John Terry will never be anything less than a captain, leader, legend, wherever he goes and whatever he does. It’s simply who he has chosen to be, and he tells how it’s done for any Chelsea player who cares to listen.

John Terry’s study is full of two things: his trophies and his training notebooks. Every trophy he won with Chelsea, and detailed notes of every training session since 2004. It’s a big study. Really big, with many shelves and cases.

It’s neither accident nor coincidence that training notes and trophies share a room in the Terry household. They belong together. They enable each other. The symbiosis between the two explains the man who, despite being an out-of-contract 37-year old, will likely be playing in the Champions League this season courtesy of a recommendation from a demanding player-turned-coach, the man who says he is in the best physical fitness of his life, the man who will turn down more offers in the next few years than most players will receive in their career, the man who will be captain, leader, legend at Chelsea for eternity and will play a similar role at any club he goes to for however short a time.

Terry walked through some of the day-to-day habits and pivotal choices that have brought him to this point. He started his habit of making notes from his training sessions after Chelsea’s first session with Jose Mourinho.

They say nothing helps a student learn more effectively than writing (writing, not typing) something down. There could hardly be a more diligent student of the sport, then, than John Terry. How much must he have learned from this daily exercise to prepare him for every subsequent game, season and his future as a coach? How much of an advantage does he have over everyone who did not do that?

Terry talked about how he responded to Mourinho blasting him in front of the entire squad during training in 2005. “My instinct was to run and give everything; flying into tackles, winning the ball… He knew exactly what he was doing — to get the best out of all of us. I have seen him do the same to Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Ashley Cole, Michael Ballack.”

Let’s take a quick catalogue of what JT did not do. He did not start a row with a fitness coach nor did he launch into a tirade against Mourinho. He did not call his agent to start shopping for a transfer, or complain to someone who could seed a rumour in the press. Terry most certainly did not sow discord amongst the other players against the managers. Emojis not having been developed at that point, he did not send the team a frowny-face emoticon, nor did he leave a sick burn about Mourinho as his AOL Instant Messenger away status.

His fitness habits mirror another player of similar longevity: Cristiano Ronaldo. Terry has changed his diet to lower his body fat percentage as he approaches 40. He trains every day, even on holiday. Even when he knew he did not have a club to report to come July.

On the matter of training and conditioning, Terry’s approach is a softer version of what his brief teammate Samuel Eto’o said last week.

"When I talk to Eden Hazard, I take [Ronaldinho] as an example… [A] player that doesn’t train every day, after a certain time, it pays cash. It pays. You can be Ronaldinho, you can be Messi, if you don’t train, Mr. Eden Hazard, after two years we forget about you. And football goes by so fast, there’s going to be another kid that will come and that will be better. – Twitter"

As a result of his diligence, dedication and passion for the game Terry is about to sign with Spartak Moscow. Antonio Conte recommended Terry to Spartak’s coach, Massimo Carrera, Conte’s assistant at Juventus and Italy. Conte would not give such a recommendation lightly. That he did so shows the esteem in which he holds John Terry, likely rooted in the similarities between the two on and off the pitch.

How many other players would receive such a recommendation from a former manager? How many will be in Terry’s mental and physical condition in their late 30s? Who among them goes home and writes down notes every day after training?

It’s a pretty short list. As is often the case, Cesar Azpilicueta is the one certainty. Some of these other players can’t make it through a month-long off-season without looking like the average 37-year old man. That does not bode well for any hopes of being in the same spot as this exceptional 37-year old man.

Chelsea knew they were lucky to have John Terry for so many years. His absence – and the absence of anyone like him – is far too obvious. His interview with the Daily Mail shows that what he does is neither instinctive nor genetic, nor was his success predetermined. He made decisions everyday for 20 years (well, let’s say 12-15. He made some pretty bad decisions in those early years) that brought him to this point.

Sadly, too many Chelsea players (and many of us commoners) don’t even know that they are facing these decisions. They follow either whim or the current, which means there is no hope of making the right decision. Yet now they have in the Daily Mail a how-to outline, and they have at their training ground, in their neighborhood, in their contact list the real thing. Terry’s interview took away everyone’s remaining excuse.

Somewhere amongst his upcoming playing contracts, pundit contracts and managerial contracts, someone should sign John Terry to a book deal. Terry may not be ready for a guest professorship at Harvard Business School like Sir Alex Ferguson, but he certainly has plenty to teach young footballers – and the rest of us – about how to lead and live.

Next. Chelsea and some others: All-time best XI from London clubs. dark

Perhaps Chelsea FC could hire him to teach a few classes before he spends a semester in Boston.