Never mind Bradford City winning at Stamford Bridge from two goals down in the FA Cup, painful as it was; forget a 5-3 defeat away to hated rivals Tottenham. The worst moment of last season for Chelsea came six minutes from the end of extra-time in the Champions League last-16 tie, when Thiago Silva climbed above John Terry to head the goal that carried Paris Saint-Germain into the quarter-finals.
To have lost on away goals after playing against 10 men for almost an hour and a half following Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s red card was bad enough. Conceding both goals in the 2-2 draw from direct headers at corners must have felt like a personal insult to the captain, which is why he gives the impression of being willing to make his expected return with both legs in plaster for Wednesday’s night second leg at the same stage of this season’s competition.
The task, of course, is harder this time, Edinson Cavani’s second-half goal in Paris having given the French champions and runaway league leaders a 2-1 win on their own ground.
“We’ve come back from worse results in the past,” Terry insists. “We still have a great chance at home. Those nights at the Bridge are unbelievable. Let’s just hope it’s another big night and we can progress. It’s not about revenge at all, it’s about getting to the next stage of the competition.
“We have players who are hungry and have had a lot of disappointments in the competition that want to go on further, so it’s going to be a good game. They’re a good side as well. They showed that the first leg. But hopefully we’ll have enough to go through.”
Suddenly momentum is on Chelsea’s side too, defeat in Paris having been the only one suffered during Guus Hiddink’s second coming. There has been talk of a top-six Premier League finish, though being held to a draw at home by Stoke on Saturday did not help. Terry is less surprised by the resurgence that than many other observers, having retained faith in his team-mates, however much responsibility they must bear for Jose Mourinho’s demise in December.
“It’s great we’ve been able to turn things around,” he said. “It was always going to happen. Because the players, the personnel, were always there. We would obviously have liked it to come earlier in the season. But we knew we had the quality in the dressing-room. I knew we’d be OK in the long run.”
Speaking before receiving an award for Outstanding Contribution to London Football on Thursday, the former England captain was aware that opportunities for further contributions are running out. He insisted that at 35 he can keep on keeping on for a minimum two more years, but that he would not play for another Premier League club; which still makes Chelsea’s lack of urgency in awarding him a new contract from this summer difficult to comprehend.
For all his well-publicised faults, he is a good clubman, as exemplified in the interest he takes in the younger players desperate to follow him through the ranks into the first team:
“I watch all the games,” he said. “I watch the under-10s, the under-12s, youth teams, reserve team – and we’re doing great. The quality’s there within the academy. There’s an awful lot been invested in the academy as well. The players want to come through and the owner wants to see that as well.
“Chelsea have had criticism in the past for not bringing enough through, but the manager’s showing that he’s got faith in the younger players.
“More importantly for me, they’ve come in and done great as well. It also helps the ones below them, the younger ones, it gives them belief. Chelsea’s a world-class dressing-room, but there’s still hope and belief in the academy.”
Meanwhile his own managerial ambitions are on hold. “I’ve had so many managers and learned so much. Basically if I don’t dip my toe in at some point in my career, I think it would be wasted. But the most important thing is that while I’ve got a couple of years left, the main thing for me is to fully focus on that and give everything.”
John Terry was speaking at the London Football Awards, raising funds for national charity Willow. For more information, visit londonfootballawards.org