Accepting his first post in management as Dean Smith’s assistant was no fallback option. Terry had playing offers – very lucrative playing offers. And it was also clear that Chelsea would make room for him to launch the next stage of his football life back ‘home’.
If it was up to Massimo Carrera, the Spartak Moscow coach, Terry would have been in his back four, alongside Salvatore Bocchetti, for Saturday’s win at Yenisey.
As outspoken agent Sandor Varga has declared, Terry “had signed a preliminary contract, passed a medical examination and received a visa” with Spartak, only to pull the plug on the move at the last minute.
“I chose Terry, because I was sure that he would strengthen not only the defence, but also our entire team, given his personality and mentality of a winner,” recalled Carrera. “I was sure of this because I spoke with (Antonio) Conte. Antonio confirmed my opinion of Terry.”
As for Chelsea, another Italian, Maurizio Sarri, was always eager to make clear Stamford Bridge “is his home” and “of course” a place would be found for Terry on his staff.
But instead of the Bridge, it will be Villa Park where Terry will get his first taste of management. And Bodymoor Heath, not Cobham, will be where the former England captain will kickoff his coaching career in an official capacity.
There’s a lot to admire about Terry and the way he’s handled things since pulling out of the Spartak move. Rather than hide away, he was back at the Otkritie Arena last week to see and thank club officials for their offer. The two parties, thanks to Terry’s gesture, parting on good terms.
Then came Sunday and his retirement announcement. He could’ve milked it for all it’s worth. A media conference. A tour of the talk shows. The demand was there.
Instead, JT posted a succinct post to social media and laid low until this morning’s news, as confirmed by Christian Purslow, the Villa chief exec.
Start as you mean to go on? You definitely fancy it, given Terry’s actions this week. And one man who will be pleased with what he’s seen is the Chelsea great’s new boss, Dean Smith.
This can be a great partnership. But it has to be said, there is a fine line. And both men will be aware of it. It is Terry who has the profile. The expectation. And at a club as big and demanding as Villa, it could all implode.
A rocky spell. Some tension with the support. And it won’t take long for the calls of Terry to be given the chance to be heard. Smith, now seven years into a management career which has spanned just Walsall and Brentford, will be well aware of this. As will Terry. The onus will be on the former England captain to know his station. If it’s to work, the lines cannot be blurred – especially in a media setting.
But this is selling the man short. Terry, as he’s shown over the past fortnight, knows how this game works. It’s about relationships. And from his actions, he’s kicking off this one with Smith on the right foot.
And we shouldn’t be surprised. He may not have sought it, but there’s been plenty of goodwill and great stories from within the game these past few days since Terry’s retirement was confirmed. And we have several of our own, at least from a former columnist with us, ‘Die Hard Charlie’, who delivered one of our most memorable features some years back on JT and his actions away from the spotlight.
It’s well worth a read, with several anecdotes, including one about a distraught, young fan, Evan, who had been crowded out from meeting Terry after one Chelsea game.
“Evan was understandably, and unsurprisingly, upset about this,” wrote Charlie. “As the team coach was driving off, JT saw how upset Evan was and STOPPED THE BLOODY TEAM COACH, got off the coach and gave him his captain’s armband and got a photo with Evan.”
As mentioned, Terry could have immersed himself in all this. Wallowed in it. But that – no matter what certain scribes demand we believe – isn’t the man. And that’s also why Purslow, who grew to know Terry while director with Chelsea, will feel comfortable installing him alongside Smith.
For this column, for the career he had, for his actions away from the spotlight, Terry deserved a greater send-off. But this retirement has been done his way and on his terms.
And he has the job he coveted. No Villa fan should believe otherwise.
PITARCH – A MAN FOR ALL JOBS
For all the buzz around Dean Smith and John Terry, the third of Aston Villa’s new management triumvirate should be the most celebrated.
There will be some doubt about new sporting director Jesus Garcia Pitarch’s familiarity with English football – particularly English football outside the Premier League.
But the challenge will be something Pitarch is well capable of meeting. After all, he is a former LaLiga player, a coach, a sporting director with Valencia and Atletico, a former president of Hercules. Oh, and outside of football, he also managed to establish his own law firm.
As a sporting director “he’s someone who finds €50m players before they’re actually valued as €50m players”, so said a long time LaLiga source to this column in a short exchange this morning.
Robert Fernandez, the former Barcelona technical chief, goes further, having worked with Pitarch at Valencia.
“He did an extraordinary job at the Mestalla,” said Robert. “He was a complete success. Why? Because he is a guy who is very well prepared at all levels and very intelligent.”
Villa fans have plenty to be excited about.