THE THURSDAY INTERVIEW: JOHN TERRY
A month ago it was Frank Lampard who answered questions looking back at his Chelsea career to mark 500 games for the club. Now having reached the same milestone it is time to find out the answers John Terry gives to those questions…
What is your main memory of your first day as a full-time trainee at Chelsea?
I was very nervous. I remember walking in and knowing the other guys having played on schoolboy forms with them already. We were delegated our duties for the year and mine were to clean three first-team dressing rooms at the training ground and I was on the kit as well for matchdays. I also had to clean three players' boots and I got Dennis Wise, Dave Lee and Eddie Newton. The first day's training wasn't much, a light jog and some tests.
Looking back after 500 games, how do you now view your full debut?
It is difficult to remember really but the day before the game [manager] Luca Vialli put me into the team shape in training and then [coach] Graham Rix spoke to me after the training and said that I was starting at right-back. That was strange because I had already come on as a sub in the Carling Cup at centre-back and came on against Southampton in the league as holding midfielder. Then I made my first start at right back, in an FA Cup match away at Oldham which was a hostile atmosphere but I felt I did okay and it was a good 2-0 win.
Can you still replay every moment of your first goal in your mind?
Yes, I remember it really well. It was against Gillingham at home in the FA Cup and from a Franco Zola corner. He whipped it in and I made my run towards the near post and I just remember thinking wow, I have got a free header here inside the box. I headed it down and thankfully it went between the goalkeeper's legs and I then darted to the crowd and grabbed the nearest supporter I could.
How does the first cup final you played in, the 2002 Cardiff FA Cup Final against Arsenal now rank in terms of disappointment?
Probably not that highly now but at the time it felt like the end of the world. As the club later became more successful we grew as a team and I did as an individual as well, and we went onto bigger and better things. We went on to win the FA Cup which is a tough task. As an Englishman I grew up watching it so obviously I was very upset at the time at Cardiff but as you go onto other big finals and Premier League titles, that part of the past is forgotten really.
What were you thinking when you knew the club was in financial difficulty at the end of the 2002/03 season?
We knew it was a must to make the Champions League.We were told that before the final game of the season against Liverpool so the guys knew how much was on it, but with the home advantage we fancied our chances and the goals from Marcel [Desailly] and Jesper [Gronkjaer] saw us through. Before we were told the situation I knew little bits. I was quite young but you would listen to the older players and there were some honest conversations going on, and you knew there were meetings. It was a case of make or break for the football club because if we got Champions League football the club were pretty sure they had someone to come in and take over and then put a lot of money and time into the football club, and we have not looked back since really. Roman [Abramovich] came in and what he did for the football club put us where we are today.
When you were left on the bench for the first Champions League group stage match of the Abramovich era, away to Sparta Prague, was that the last time you truly felt your place in the side was under long-term threat?
It was definitely a strange one. I remember Frank and I sitting together with Eidur Gudjohnsen in the team meeting and when the team was put up we gave each other a little nudge. But although we were very surprised not to be in it we have always been good professionals and there was no moaning. Frank and I didn't have any experience in the Champions League and whether that had any part to play I don't know, but Lamps came on and made a big impact. Willie Gallas scored a winner so the manager [Claudio Ranieri] maybe got it right on the day but the only way we were going to get Champions League experience was to play, but we respected the manager's decision, he spoke to us both after the game and we have not looked back since really and have not been left out. That is due to our good form and success and the willingness to maintain it at the top. It is not rocket science. If I am playing badly I expect to be left out of the team regardless of being the captain. If I am playing well then I expect to be playing.
Apart from the Bolton game, what is your favourite memory of the first Championship win?
The Blackburn game away in the February when we won 1-0 and Jose [Mourinho] came onto the pitch and told us to throw our shirts to the fans who had travelled everywhere with us. That match let everyone know that we were getting the job done. It was live on telly, a night game at Blackburn is a tough one so it sent a message and that was a special night. Apart from that just the football in general. We played Norwich at home that year and played some unbelievable football and won 4-0. As well as the attacking play we also kept so many clean sheets and set a record by conceding only 15 goals.
Did having won the league at Bolton in 2005 a few days before the Champions League game at Anfield have an effect on that?
I am not sure because we didn't celebrate, we stayed up around that area so that night when we got back after the Bolton game the manager sat everyone down and we had a glass of champagne and that was it, we went to bed. We won the league, it was a great occasion there as we left the stadium but once we got to the hotel it was right, Liverpool. The team meeting the next morning was about Liverpool and we prepared ourselves right for it, but we didn't have that little bit of luck you certainly need in that big competition.
The second league title seemed relatively straight-forward. Was it?
It felt as though everybody feared us, we were playing some unbelievable football and the manager made some really good signings as well for that season. Also the players that weren't playing were important. They trained really well every day and kept the pressure on the players who were in the team and that squad morale was incredible at the time. That was credit to what Jose had done and credit to those players.
Last season, the Double year, looked at times like it was a lot of fun.
Yeah, it was a lot of fun. We ran away at the top very early and people were saying it is over after 10 games, but we had a little bit of a blip. But we picked ourselves up and hit some really good form at the right time towards the end. It was probably the best form I have seen with the results and the free-flowing play. The amount of goals we were scoring home and away was incredible. Each season you know you are going to hit a bad spell and it is about how quickly you can get out of it. We got out of it very quickly last year and have taken a little bit longer this year but once again we are right back in the frame. It was good the way we went about things last season but the other championship-winning seasons it was us against everybody and nobody liked Chelsea going and winning it in Jose's first year. Everyone wanted to beat us week in week out and there really was no easy game. We had to dig and fight and we did it very well and I enjoyed that part of it as well.
Part two of John Terry's answers will appear tomorrow.