John Terry, a most admired and despised figure, faces sadly fitting end to Chelsea career

Richard Jolly focuses on the ups and downs of John Terry as he nears the end of his illustrious and colourful career at Chelsea.

In what is likely to be John Terry's final moment as a Chelsea player and captain, he throws his armband after being sent off against Sunderland. Gareth Copley / Getty Images
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All careers end in failure. It is a slight exaggeration but unhappy endings tend to outnumber the glorious goodbyes. Yet if some exits are underwhelming, John Terry’s stands out as being particularly ignominious.

The reality is that Chelsea have won more during their captain's 18 year first-team career than in the first 93 years of their history. Yet this was already set to be their worst season for two decades before Terry brought his own participation to an especially undignified conclusion, hurtling into midfield, recklessly fouling Wahbi Khazri and being sent off in Saturday's 3-2 defeat to Sunderland.

Perhaps it was sadly fitting, though. Terry will be banned for the final two games of the season. Sunday's meeting with Leicester City was supposed to be a farewell. Instead, once again, he will be unable to participate properly.

Terry's footballing life is defined in part by a suspension, ruling him out of the 2012 Uefa Champions League final. He was a spectator, albeit one infamously dressed in his club kit, on Chelsea's greatest day. He is a player who has achieved much, yet whose feats can be overshadowed by his failures. Some have been unfortunate, some reprehensible but, far from the unstoppable, faultless figure the "Captain, Leader, Legend" banner at Stamford Bridge suggests, he has proved a curiously pratfall-prone player.

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He slipped, skewing the decisive penalty in the 2008 Champions League final shoot-out wide and inspiring the famous spoof surface sign — “Caution! John Terry” — that appeared on many a T-shirt. He lost the England captaincy twice, neither for football reasons. He was banned by the English FA for racially abusing Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand, a charge he denied but a sentence he did not contest.

In the process, he damaged Chelsea's reputation and, like Luis Suarez's similar saga at Liverpool, exposed the hypocrisies of football clubs who exempt prized assets from their anti-discrimination policies.

He will leave Chelsea as simultaneously one of the most admired and despised players of his generation, a polarising figure whose persona left him ripe for parody and whose mishaps were greeted with Schadenfreude.

He was not as indomitable as he imagined, yet he commanded sufficient respect from his fellow professionals to be voted a member of the FIFPro World XI for five consecutive years and was the last defender to be anointed PFA Player of the Year. He was named the best defender in the Champions League three times, a cornerstone of officially the most frugal defence in Premier League history — Jose Mourinho’s class of 2004-05 — and a man whose ability and determination enabled him to straddle eras.

One who debuted in the 20th century who was at the heart of Mourinho’s first title-winning team was still an ever-present when they regained the crown in 2015. Chelsea were transformed by Roman Abramovich’s investment and Mourinho’s money but Terry, who predated both, did not merely survive the changing of the guard but came to personify the new Chelsea: brash and rich, yes, but ambitious, ultra-successful, pragmatic and powerful.

Terry being Terry, he announced his own departure. Chelsea’s subsequent silence has spoken volumes. Much as any number of former players have queued up to insist they should offer him a new contract, Antonio Conte has clearly decided to make a fresh start. A slowing centre-back who will turn 36 in December will play no part for the incoming Italian.

And so Terry’s final action as a Chelsea player was to toss the captain’s armband he has worn an extraordinary 570 times to the Sunderland turf. He goes with a litany of impressive statistics — 66 goals from the back, 703 appearances, 16 trophies — and an enduring capacity to divide opinions. Worshipped by the Chelsea faithful, respected as a player by many others, disliked as a person by perhaps still more, Terry will be consigned to the past in what is actually a familiarly humiliating fashion. Steven Gerrard’s time at Liverpool ended in a 6-1 defeat, Ryan Giggs’ playing days at Manchester United with their worst season for a quarter of a century, Rio Ferdinand’s career in a wretched relegation. It may be scant consolation but Terry can bracket himself with the giants of his generation. And not just in the manner of his leaving.

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