CHELSEA TV EXCLUSIVE: CAPTAIN'S BOOST
It's rare to be surprised when the name John Terry appears on a Chelsea teamsheet, but that was certainly the reaction at St Andrew's on Tuesday night when the captain was named as a substitute by interim first team coach Roberto Di Matteo, a mere 13 days after undergoing surgery near his knee.
It would be fair to say results and performances of late have been well below par, a fact that ultimately led to the dismissal of Andre Villas-Boas earlier this week, and supporters will undoubtedly have taken heart from the fact our skipper is back involved with the squad so far ahead of schedule.
'I'm delighted because initially they were saying four to six weeks but naturally they're a little bit cautious,' Terry told Chelsea TV in an exclusive interview after the Birmingham game.
'After the operation I was jogging two days later, but it's down to getting over it mentally as well, the fact you've had an operation. Once you're clear of that then you're able to push on.
'The way it's been here, I just wanted to push myself and try to get back involved. I've been working hard in the gym doing triple sessions and going back to Cobham in the evenings on my own which has been tough, but the target was always to be back for the Stoke game so this is a massive boost for me that I can get some more days of training under my belt.
'There is no pain at all and he [the surgeon] said for how long I've been playing, my knee looks in great condition which is an added bonus.'
The departure of Villas-Boas came after a run of results which had seen the club drop out of the qualification places for next season's Champions League. Terry admitted the players have to take their share of the blame.
'It's sad for Andre because unfortunately it falls on his head, when I think the players will hold their hands up and say clearly we've not been good enough and we have all made mistakes together,' he said.
'We came to Birmingham and dug deep for him, and for Robbie [Di Matteo] taking charge and for Eddie [Newton] coming in as well. It's nice to have familiar faces around who know the club.
'We have done enough talking amongst ourselves for the last three or four months, and Robbie came in and said those exact same things as well, we have to show commitment for the shirt. He has played here, the same as Eddie, and we have to fight for the shirt and that has been the message to the lads for this game.'
Two second-half goals in the space of five minutes, from Juan Mata and Raul Meireles, secured a third FA Cup quarter-final in four years for the Blues, with a home tie against Leicester our reward, and Terry praised the efforts of the players for an impressive result at what has been a difficult place to go.
'Over the years it's been tough coming to St Andrew's. The pitch wasn't the best and we had to dig in, which we did, and it was never going to be pretty, but I thought all the lads who were involved were fantastic.'