Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Terry Shows His Mental Strength

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Terry Shows His Mental Strength

Article excerpt

Byline: IAN CHADBAND

Chelsea 2 Leeds 0

THE Leeds fans were taunting him with cries of "going down, Terry's going down ..." and the lad just shut them out and shut them up with a towering performance which went a long way to helping re-establish Chelsea's toehold in the championship race.

Whether you have sympathy or not for John Terry amid all his recent off-field tribulations, it is not difficult to imagine just how hellishly difficult it must have been for a beleagured 21-year-old this past three weeks to concentrate out there on the pitch.

Charges of assault and affray, which he denies, hang over him; he must wonder if he's blown his international career before it's really started; and the assassination of his character has been pretty unremitting.

After a couple of indifferent performances by his standards, the suspicion was that it must have all gnawed away at his confidence. Yet the sight of him clutching the man-of-the match champers outside the Chelsea dressing room told of someone who, if nothing else, appears to possess the sort of mental resilience and tunnel vision which was the extraordinary hallmark of one of his opponents last night, Lee Bowyer, during his own trials.

"The last few weeks, I feel as if I'd dipped in form a bit until the West Ham game and tonight but, on the training ground and the pitch I hadn't been affected by anything that's been going on outside of football," Terry told me last night, speaking for the first time about how he has coped since his court appearance earlier this month. "Once I go out on the pitch, that's it.

I focus. It's totally football and I'm not worried about the other thing."

Clearly, he feels that, in particular, he owes a debt to manager Claudio Ranieri, who, ever since Terry's court appearance earlier this month, has continued to stand by his man.

"The boss has shown a lot of faith in me and I can't thank him enough," he said. "The club have too, by coming out and speaking publicly about what happened and by the support they've given me.

"The club have always been very supportive of me over the four years I've been here and that helps you relax on the pitch."

Ranieri's reward was obvious enough last night. In the driving rain, Terry felt he had rediscovered his best form, so that you almost had the illusion that the old master Marcel Desailly was reduced to junior partner for the night.

Not that any of their splendid back four were unduly troubled by a curiously insipid Leeds outfit who, having won only once since New Year's day, appear to have quite lost their way.

Of course, the same was being said of Chelsea just a week ago.

Utterly comatose and incompetent against Spurs one Wednesday-they prove utterly up-'n-at-em and accomplished against Leeds the next. …

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