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About the Author
Ollie Derbyshire is also the author of Michael Owen and Thierry Henry.
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JT Captain, Leader, Legend
The Biography of John Terry
By Oliver Derbyshire
John Blake Publishing LtdCopyright © 2010 Ollie Derbyshire
All rights reserved.
'I was a United fan, and so were my dad and grandad, so going up there and having my picture taken with all the trophies, and with Alex Ferguson, was just brilliant. They wanted me to sign schoolboy forms on my fourteenth birthday, and I can't fault the way they handled it. There was no pressure at all; they just said the choice was up to me. The fact was that I was so happy at Chelsea at the time that I didn't want to leave. I enjoyed the training here, and the club made me and my family feel welcome and wanted.'
John George Terry made history when he lifted the Premiership trophy in May 2005. As the first Chelsea captain to win the league in fifty years, he claimed his place among the Stamford Bridge legends but it could all have been so different. The Blues weren't the only team looking to recruit the talented teenager and, if he had signed for Manchester United back in 1994, then who knows how things might have turned out.
On 18 December 1980, Ted and Sue Terry celebrated the birth of their second child in Barking. It was another boy to follow the arrival of Paul eighteen months earlier. John forged a close relationship with his big brother as the two lads helped each other on their way to achieving their dreams as professional footballers.
Ted Terry had had trials with West Ham in his youth and, when the young Terrys were growing up, they would watch their father organising his Sunday team from defence and it clearly made a big impression on them.
'I remember watching my Dad as a kid and he was always screaming and shouting,' recalled John on Chelsea TV. 'I'd see him come off the pitch and people would say how he never stopped talking, so it was something I learnt from him. He was a leader and a centre-half as well.
'He just played pub football really. He had trials at West Ham but didn't want to follow it up. He is quite small, but everyone said he was renowned for his heading and being dangerous at set-plays just like I am now. That's why people compared us.'
Maybe it was a good comparison when John Terry was growing up but to compare the two now wouldn't be fair on either of them. The elder Mr Terry may not have been as talented a player as his boys but his commitment to their future would certainly be hard to beat.
Working as a forklift operator at a wood yard he would turn in twelve-hour shifts, unloading boats and loading up lorries to keep food on the table and new boots on his boys' feet. During a typical weekend Ted Terry would get up early in the morning – no lie-in for him after working a sixty-hour week – to make sure John and Paul got to their games. Then he would join all the other proud dads on the touchline watching the boys do what they did best.
Their talent was obvious from an early age and he wasn't going to let anything come between them and their football. And when the opportunity arose for John and Paul to join one of the best boys clubs in the country, they grabbed it with open arms.
John Terry had been playing for a team called Comet when his best friend and team-mate moved to Senrab FC, a name now famous across England for producing Premiership players year after year. Echo League side Senrab has a fine tradition as the breeding ground for the South-east's finest players since the club was founded in 1961. The capital's most talented schoolboys have found themselves drawn to the east London club since Chelsea signed Ray Wilkins from Senrab in 1973 and, before John Terry arrived at the club in the early 1990s, Sol Campbell, Lee Bowyer, Muzzy Izzett and Ade Akinbiyi had recently graduated from what may be regarded as the cradle of London's footballing youth.
Crewe Alexandra's long-serving manager Dario Gradi cut his coaching teeth on Wanstead Flats with his charges running out in Senrab colours and Charlton Athletic's Alan Curbishley also had a spell coaching the schoolboys before taking on his higher-profile position as manager at The Valley. The standards of instruction were very high and the players were exceptional. John Terry ran out in the same team as Ledley King, Paul Konchesky, Jlloyd Samuel and Bobby Zamora and this was back in the distant days when Ian Porterfield was the manager of Chelsea.
It is hard to believe that one schoolboy team could produce so many Premiership players: any club in the world would consider themselves exceptionally lucky to produce five top-class players from the same youth team, so what was the Senrab secret? Club secretary Tony Carroll put it down to a combination of top coaching and instilling a professional attitude in the players from a young age.
'Our predecessors set such a high standard that we have to follow on the tradition,' Carroll told BBC Sport. 'Some of our coaches here are top class. Alan Curbishley used to play for Senrab and Dario Gradi was a coach here – those sorts of people leave their mark. All of the staff give their time freely. We get paid by seeing the boys enjoying themselves, improving and, if they join a club, then you know you've done a good job.
'Players also have a code of conduct. We've thrown people out of the club for misbehaving, for causing aggravation at games and in training. But if people want their boys to play football then they come to us.
'There are thousands of kids that have got the talent but haven't got the right temperament. You can send a player to a professional club and think he's the best thing since sliced bread but then they send him back two weeks later because his time-keeping is poor and he's not disciplined. The players have to be 100 per cent committed and, if they're not, then they're wasting the club's time.'
The attitude of Terry and King impressed everyone even from a young age, but it was still a special day when the two Senrab boys took to the pitch in the white shirts of England with the Three Lions on their chests many years later. The pair happily recalled those days on Wanstead Flats.
'I used to play Sunday football with him [Ledley King] at Senrab. Even then people would rant and rave about him,' Terry said to a press conference. 'Well, he's in the Premiership now, up against some of the best players in the world and still he looks brilliant. He's two-footed, great in the air, he's quick. Ledley's got everything – he's brilliant to play alongside. He's talkative, helps you out; if the ball goes over you, you know he'll be there to mop up. He's an all-rounder and he's got everything, he really has. He's very modest, a cool, calm customer and a lovely lad off the pitch as well. On the pitch, he's letting his feet do the talking.'
King was just as complimentary when asked about his old team-mate. 'We were just East End lads coming together and making a good team,' said the Tottenham defender to the Daily Telegraph. 'I was with Senrab from nine until fourteen and they were good times. I played in the same team as John. He was in midfield and I was centre-half. But when we played together in the England Under-21s, I was in midfield and John was at the back. It's funny to see the way our positions have changed.
'John used to be a midfield player because he wasn't that big in those days. He had a growth spurt and shot up, so now he's an obvious choice for centre-back because he was really good in the air even when he was quite short.'
Unsurprised that his team-mate became a defender, the Tottenham stopper could see a captain in the making right from the start. 'Even then, you could see he had leadership qualities.'
Terry didn't lead the all-conquering Senrab side very often though as one of the other lads had a closer relationship with the gaffer. Terry recalls: 'Paul Nicholls was captain ... his dad was coach ... but I did get to captain a few times.'
Today he is still in touch with his old skipper. 'He has been my best mate throughout. When we were eleven, we were both playing for Comet and then he went to Senrab and got me to go there as well. We have just stayed together throughout. He was always there for me and he still is now.
'We had a good bunch of lads that made it easier. The standard we had was really good: Ledley King, Paul Konchesky, Jlloyd Samuel, Bobby Zamora and myself. The best was Muzzy Izzett's brother Kemi but Bobby Zamora was getting all the headlines and scoring all the goals.'
It was quite a team and scouts came from far and wide to watch Terry and his young team-mates. Unable to sign schoolboy forms with any club before their fourteenth birthday, the boys had the opportunity to 'try before you buy' from the best clubs around. As well as playing for Senrab, the young prodigies went on trial with teams all across London and occasionally further afield.
As a Barking lad, Terry spent a long time with West Ham and took advantage of the coaching at the 'academy' during the school holidays. But the training became tedious after a while and he had a spell with Arsenal. He even had trials up at Manchester United's famous old training ground, the Cliff.
The young midfielder had impressed Alex Ferguson and, in turn, the Old Trafford supremo tried his best to impress Terry. During one school holiday, Ferguson sent Malcolm Fidgeon, the scout who had spotted Terry, to drive him up to Manchester for a trial. And after he picked up the youngster from his house in Barking, he drove a couple more miles to pick up David Beckham from his parents' home.
'Beckham lived just a few miles away in Leytonstone. I'd met him before when I was playing for Essex,' Terry recalls. 'I was thirteen, David was three or four years older and already in digs in Manchester. He sat in the front with me in the back. We did get to know each other a bit on the journey, although I was quite nervous about the trial and didn't say a lot.'
Once in Manchester, Terry performed brilliantly during the trial and, off the pitch, he even had his photograph taken with Eric Cantona and Ryan Giggs while holding the Premiership trophy for the first, but fortunately not the last, time.
On another occasion, when Manchester United played at Upton Park, Ferguson called on Terry and his parents to join up with the squad at their hotel. As a Manchester United fan from a family of United fans, it was almost too good to be true and Terry remembers it well.
'Like my dad, I was a United fan at the time and had the chance to go up there. United made an effort to sign me, and that was a great experience,' Terry remembered at a press conference. 'They were playing at West Ham one day and invited me and my family to have the pre-match meal with them at the Swallow Hotel in Waltham Abbey. I was sitting at the same table as my heroes Paul Ince and Eric Cantona and had my photograph taken with them. I had beans on toast but I was too scared to eat it in case I dropped it on the floor. It was a great experience – a real dream come true.'
The Manchester United manager has a first-class pedigree when it comes to producing exceptional players from his youth team and Giggs, Beckham, Paul Scholes and the Neville brothers all received similar treatment before joining Salford's finest. However, Terry had already been won over by the boys from the Bridge.
'As a boy, I supported United and people were always saying to me: "You've got to sign for United, the team you support." United were champions at the time, and I went up to the Cliff and trained there in the summer holidays and had my picture done with Cantona, Giggs and all the trophies,' recalls Terry. 'It was a dream come true but when I came here I loved it so much that I decided to sign for the club. While I got on with the players there, I just enjoyed it so much more at Chelsea. I felt it was right as soon as I came here. It's one of those things that will always live with me. They wanted to sign me but I ended up signing for Chelsea.
Terry told the Daily Telegraph: 'I just love Chelsea. When I first started coming here, Gwyn Williams [who became assistant manager under Gianluca Vialli and Claudio Ranieri] used to make my family happy and take us out for meals. He was a big influence on why I signed for them.
'My parents couldn't take me to training all the time, and so Gwyn would arrange for someone to pick me up and take me back home. He would also phone to see how I was and little things like that meant a lot.
'If I needed boots, they were on the doorstep the next morning, and they gave me training kit to play in. They might seem silly things but they made all the difference to me. This is a family club and they made me feel so welcome. All the boys I talk to say the same thing. United's interest was a dream come true but when I came here I loved it so much I decided to sign for the club. Being looked after like that was enough for me to choose Chelsea. It upset my dad as a United fan but he could see Chelsea were going places. It was the right decision.'
Signing for the Blues meant Terry had to turn his back on Senrab – who are unable to field players once they have signed schoolboy terms with a professional club – as well as the talented players with whom he had shared his early years. He would soon be seeing them again in the Premiership. Konchesky headed for Charlton Athletic before joining West Ham; King joined Tottenham Hotspur; Samuel joined Aston Villa and Zamora worked his way up the football ladder, joining Tottenham and then West Ham after showing what he could do at Brighton.
Paul Terry found more than just football at Senrab and started seeing Paul Konchesky's sister Sarah, whom he married in June 2001. But even with the backing of a good woman, Paul couldn't emulate his younger brother. The elder of the Terry boys didn't make it straight into the top flight but did break into the team at non-League Dagenham & Redbridge following unsuccessful spells with Charlton and Millwall. After five good seasons with the Daggers, Paul joined Yeovil Town and helped them into League One in 2005.
Senrab's conveyor belt of talent didn't stop after Terry and his mates left though, and Jermain Defoe joined West Ham from the year below. All of the players still show their loyalty to the old club and Terry, like the other players who have 'made it', has even been back to hand out trophies at the end-of-season presentation to the next generation of Senrab graduates.CHAPTER 2
'At fourteen, I signed a two-year schoolboy form for Chelsea, and then it was a case of would I make it? I was playing in midfield and was really small. I was small and fat, basically. I think Chelsea were umming and aahing about my size, until all of a sudden, with perfect timing, I started shooting up. Then one day in the youth team we were struggling for centre-halves. So I played there and we won 3–0 and I've never looked back.'
John Terry left the dodgy pitches of Wanstead Flats behind and started his quest to find a place in the Chelsea starting XI, but first he needed to find his best position. A midfielder all his life, the teenage Terry had great touch and combined composure on the ball with a fine range of passing plus an ability to read and control a game. Too short to play at the back, he also lacked pace, but that wasn't too big a problem at that age.
One of his early coaches at Chelsea was Mick McGiven. 'He was a central midfield player then with a velvety touch on the ball,' said McGiven in the Daily Telegraph. 'You always got a good rhythm to your team from John, although sometimes he would try to force the pace a bit too much. His mobility was often called into question, but you can work on that with a young player.'
For two years, the diminutive Terry combined his schoolwork at Eastbury Comprehensive School in Barking with training and coaching at Chelsea, and it's not too tough to work out which aspects he preferred. 'I wasn't great at school. It was only in the last year that I really knuckled down because my parents had really drummed it into me,' Terry told Chelsea TV. 'I got eight GCSEs but not great grades, and up until then I didn't really concentrate on my work because all I wanted to do was play football.
'I didn't want to do my homework. When I got home from school, I'd be straight over the field with my mates. I was always with the in crowd, maybe it was because of my football that I was with them. But I was always with them walking about. I didn't get into a lot of trouble to be fair.'
Excerpted from JT Captain, Leader, Legend by Oliver Derbyshire. Copyright © 2010 Ollie Derbyshire. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Prologue – Who?,
Chapter 1 – Barking Lad,
Chapter 2 – Chelsea Boy,
Chapter 3 – Loan Star,
Chapter 4 – King of the King's Road,
Chapter 5 – Dark Days,
Chapter 6 – Trial and Tribulation,
Chapter 7 – England At Last,
Chapter 8 – The Russian Revolution,
Chapter 9 – Euro Heartbreak,
Chapter 10 – Captain Marvel,
Chapter 11 – Champions Again!,
Chapter 12 – End of the World,
Chapter 13 – England's Captain Marvel,
Chapter 14 – Cup Double and Injury Trouble,
Chapter 15 – Champions League Trauma,
Chapter 16 – FA Cup Heroics,