Remembering John Terry's PFA Player of the Year award

Defenders don't often get the credit they deserve when it comes to individual accolades, but after Virgil van Dijk was named PFA Player of the Year on Sunday, we look back at when a legendary Blues centre-half took home that prize.

Since the Professional Footballers' Association started honouring the best player in the country, as voted for by their peers, in 1973/74, there have been 41 different winners of an award which many consider to be the most prestigious individual accolade in the English game.

The first two players to lift the trophy were defenders: Norman 'Bite your legs' Hunter, who was present for Chelsea's epic battles with Leeds United in the two matches to decide the 1970 FA Cup final, and Colin Todd of Derby County.

Since then, only four centre-halves have been the overwhelming choice as the best player in the top flight, with attacking players typically taking the plaudits. Step forward Gary Pallister, boyhood Chelsea fan Paul McGrath, John Terry and Virgil van Dijk.

Before Liverpool's Dutch defender won the award, JT was the last defensive rock to be named PFA Player of the Year, after our captain, leader, legend was considered the outstanding player in the Premier League as the Blues lifted the title in 2004/05, ending a 50-year drought since our previous top-flight championship.

That the award would be won by a Chelsea player that season was in absolutely no doubt. We were head and shoulders ahead of the rest of the division, winning 29 matches out of 38 and losing just once, accruing what was then a Premier League record of 95 points. Arsenal, our nearest rivals, were 12 behind us and Everton, who claimed the fourth and final Champions League spot that season, were a huge 34 points shy of Jose Mourinho's side.

The fact there were only four of our players in the PFA Team of the Year was a travesty. Petr Cech got the nod in goal for an utterly dominant first campaign between the Stamford Bridge sticks; JT's leadership and outstanding defensive qualities earned him selection; Frank Lampard had established himself as the league's top goalscoring midfield, among his many other qualities; and Arjen Robben had injected more than a touch of flair in the mere 18 Premier League appearances he made that term.

In truth, the whole back four could have been Chelsea's. Paulo Ferreira, Ricardo Carvalho and William Gallas were all outstanding in helping us concede only 15 goals, which remains a record, and Claude Makelele even had the defensive-midfield position named after him, such was his peerless mastery of the position. Even Damien Duff, Robben's wing partner in crime, had a good shout for inclusion.

While Lampard earned recognition in the form of the Football Writers' Association award, it was only fitting that Terry, the heartbeat of the football club at that time, should receive recognition for what remains one of the greatest seasons in the club's history.

From the very first match of the campaign, a mouthwatering home game against Manchester United, it was clear JT meant business. He was outstanding that day, marshalling the back four and heading everything clear, helping us to the first of 25 clean sheets in that Premier League season. Or, to put it another way, we conceded in only 13 matches. Let that sink in for a second.

Terry, who turned 24 midway through the season, played in each of our first 36 games in the league until earning a hard-earned rest and he was ever-present during the run of clean sheets which spanned much of the winter months and saw us set a Premier League record for longest run without conceding, which has since been surpassed.

What's more, he made decisive contributions at the other end of the pitch. He scored eight goals in all competitions, which was his best tally in a single campaign that he equalled a decade later when helping us lift the Premier League trophy again. Among them was the famous winner against Barcelona in a game which many consider to be the best in the club's history.

His performances were nothing short of heroic, establishing him as one of the world's best centre-halves, and he'd retain that status over the course of the next decade as the trophies continued to flood into Stamford Bridge.

And while the team honours are undoubtedly the ones which JT will hold in the highest regard, the PFA award gave him the individual recognition he warranted. In a sport where defensive players regularly play second fiddle to their attacking qualities, it merely highlighted what an outstanding contribution he had made to an unforgettable campaign.

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