From The Times Wednesday 26th October 2011 by Matthew Syed
John Terry is the most unfortunate man in Britain. How else to make sense of the litany of misunderstandings that have afflicted the Chelsea captain and which have served cruelly to undermine his reputation? The most recent incident involves video footage that appears to show Terry racially abusing an opponent at the weekend. Terry admits to using racist language (and, to judge from the video, using it in an aggressive way), but he claims that he was stating the words to deny having said them an earlier spat. To put it another way, he has been misconstrued. It is not the first time, poor chap. In December 2009 he was filmed showing a group of businessmen (actually undercover reporters) around the Chelsea training ground in return for £10,000 in used £50 notes. At the time, many inferred that he was seeking to enrich himself in direct contravention of his club's rules. But this was another misapprehension. According to Terry, £8,000 of the cash was destined for charity. Earlier that year Terry had been the victim of another misunderstanding. The story centred on an e-mail sent out by a company called Riviera Entertainment, which read: "John Terry is available to create effective brand awareness and endorse products and services globally." And later: "John Terry is: British sporting hero; England's football captain; World Cup 2018 ambassador; Football icon; Dad of the year 2008; Voted as one of the World's most influencial [sic] people." According to Riviera, it was acting on the explicit instructions of Terry and his advisers, but Terry was having none of it. This was another case of misunderstanding. "An e-mail inviting commercial endorsements for me has been published," he said. "This e-mail was sent without my authority or knowledge and was not approved by me (or those advising me). I have nothing further to say on the matter." In February 2010 (anyone else getting a sense of déjà vu?) Terry was accused of exploiting the England captaincy for commercial gain. According to reports, his box at Wembley (which he was allowed to hire at thousands of pounds below the market price as a perk of the England captaincy) was being touted out for £4,000 in cash. This was, again, a case of crossed wires. Terry patiently explained that he had no knowledge of the proposed transaction and that he was an innocent victim of circumstances beyond his control. Some may wonder how it is possible for a man who is (according to his commercial agents) an outstanding leader to be misunderstood so often; how it is possible that so many money-making scams, dodgy transactions and reprehensible outbursts are attributed to a man who is so morally upstanding. But perhaps we should put these questions to one side, at least for the moment, because we have barely scratched the surface of Terry's misfortune. As recently as Monday, it was reported that Terry had failed to show up to the opening of a reptile shop in Surrey (I am not making this up). Two hundred and fifty people were apparently left disappointed. But this was not a case of forgetfulness or a breach of promise; it was another misunderstanding. "I had not agreed to attend the opening of this or any other shop today," Terry proclaimed. "I had been asked if I would consider the opportunity and declined on two separate occasions. I very much regret any distress or disappointment that may have been suffered by the public." Perhaps the most infamous misunderstanding occurred during the summer of 2009, when Manchester City came along with a big offer for the Chelsea centre half. Many players would have grabbed the money, others would have stayed put. But Terry came up with a different ploy. He kept schtum for almost the entire summer, using the offer to squeeze an improved offer from Chelsea (reported to be about £150,000 a week). "Good luck to him," many of us thought. "There is nothing wrong with maximising one's income". But, once again, we had it all wrong. According to Terry, who enjoys his reputation as a stalwart of Stamford Bridge, he had never contemplated going to City and it was merely a coincidence that Chelsea offered a whopping pay rise. As yet another public statement told us: "I am totally committed to Chelsea and always have been." Quite how anybody came to any other conclusion was, it seemed, beyond him. Indeed, looking at Terry's career in the round, it is difficult to find a single episode where he has been in the wrong. What looks like dodgy behaviour is merely a case of not knowing all the facts, or misinterpreting his motives, or failing to see the bigger picture. Other episodes include when he parked in a disabled bay, urinated into a beer glass outside a nightclub and insulted American tourists in the aftermath of 9/11. Of course, suspicious people have, on occasions, doubted Terry's explanations. If the money for the training ground tour was destined for charity, why was he so keen to keep it secret? As the cash was handed to Tony Bruce, a ticket tout who apparently pocketed £2,000 for acting as the broker, Terry said: "If the club finds out, it's a little bit . . . you know." Later, when more trips were discussed, Terry said: "Yeah, but you brief them that they don't speak to no one. Cos if anyone finds out, then we can't do it no more." Others point out that almost every case of "misinterpretation" is also a case of Terry calling someone else a liar. Terrence Clark, the reptile shop owner, did not miss the implication. "That's an absolute lie," he said in response to Terry's statement. "It wasn't a publicity stunt. He had agreed to come. You saw everything I did today, bringing out the snakes and sweets and stuff for the kids because I felt so bad. He was supposed to be there but he didn't show." Either way, what seems clear is that there are really only two possible views to have of Terry. One is that he is the most misunderstood man in Britain, someone who has endured an astonishing run of bad luck and misinterpretation. The other is that he is an odious and reprehensible chancer who should never have been appointed (or reappointed) to the England captaincy. Make your own minds up.