It seems bizarre to suggest that a player red carded in the UEFA Champions League semi final is mature and a great leader, but somehow, some way that is what is playing out here.
It is an interesting scenario because Chelsea, under new leadership in the guise of Roberto Di Matteo after Andre Villas-Boas was sacked, is playing a lot like a Chelsea side seen several seasons ago. They have more shape, but most importantly they have more belief.
Much has been made of player power and how the club and its billionaire owner Roman Abramovich are heavily influenced by the likes of John Terry and Frank Lampard. Villas-Boas tried to cut this off by dropping Lampard and undermining Terry. Terry did not have his own nightmares to seek with his reputation in tatters following publicized dalliances with women and a pending racism case. Did this affect how he was seen by his club, though?
Of course no one outside of Stamford Bridge could ever say exactly how deep this influence goes. AVB found out that changes, radical or otherwise, may lead to a swift boot and a push towards the unemployment queue.
Since then there has now been a rather phantasmagorical resurgence from within Chelsea’s ranks and the cynics assume that each tactical change, reinstatement of previously abandoned players and every bullish performance bears the hallmarks of Terry.
This is rather harsh on Di Matteo, who is an experienced English Premier League manager in his own right. However, when Drogba decides to turn it on, Torres starts scoring big goals and the older, slower rigs of Terry and Lampard tighten and cajole the team over the line it is impressive.
Written off, they topped Barcelona at the Nou Camp. Sure they rode their luck –Messi hitting woodwork and missing penalties helps, but the kid can’t always get the rub of the green –but they grafted.
There are a lot of suspensions for their Final and players like Terry and Ivanovic have been harshly reminded of this. Nonetheless, Di Matteo has been, at the very least, a figurehead for this upturn and should be given the job full-time.
As for Terry: getting his red card for swinging into the back of a Barca player may be silly, but it may well be a cathartic act. He is coming to the end soon enough and must relinquish his hold on the reins at Chelsea. He has nudged them over to another showpiece event. He is also set to be an FA Cup finalist.
He is maligned, and there is much character knocking whenever ‘JT’ is mentioned. Perhaps it is justified. Despite this, though, you cannot doubt what the experienced captain has achieved.
Will his side do the rest?