John Terry & Aston Villa – A Match Made in Heaven?

Championship side Aston Villa have signed Chelsea legend John Terry on a one-year deal after his contract with the Blues expired on the 30th of June. Amid interest from several Premier League clubs, the United States, China and Turkish side Galatasaray, as well as Villa’s arch-rivals Birmingham City, Terry has made a decision that not only makes sense from his point of view but also very much so for the club he is joining.

It’s still hard to wrap your head around the fact that Terry won’t be strutting about Stamford Bridge next season, commanding respect from everyone in the dressing room and attracting adoration from pretty much every single Chelsea fan. But, in the era of Antonio Conte, it was almost inevitable. Conte put emotion aside and analytically built a title-winning machine from the best-suited and most well-oiled components he had at his disposal. In this sense, the Italian had succeeded where others who had attempted to phase out Terry had failed.

That said, Conte still made it clear that he valued Terry hugely as a leader and back-up option, but the 78 cap former England international felt that this was not quite the end of his story on the pitch, and made the plunge in moving completely out of his comfort zone and looking for a new team. There’s no doubt that Terry surely could have had a comfortable end to his Chelsea career, signing short-term deals as nothing more than a peripheral squad player, something of a figurehead of the club whose goal is to show younger players what it means to be a Blue and provide leadership in the dressing room. He might have even started on his coaching career in an environment he knows well, where he’d have every possible chance to succeed.

However, this is not in the nature of one of the Premier League’s greatest competitors. The ‘easy way’ never appealed to him, and neither did the money he would have earned by signing at a number of interested clubs. Aston Villa provided him with a challenge on the pitch at a club where he feels valued as a player before anything else, and with a manager whom he respects immensely in Steve Bruce and a Director of Football who Terry forged a strong working relationship with during their time together with the English national team in Steve Round. “It’s down to me to perform week in, week out to prove to the players I can still play. I’m not one of them players at the end of his career looking for a pay day. I would be somewhere else if that was the case” (Guardian).

Of course, Terry will still make a decent amount of money – He is very much on a Premier League salary of around £60,000 and chock-full of incentives. But the message is clear that he is definitely at Villa to compete and help the club achieve their goal of returning to the English top flight. “I wanted it to be that once I decided (To join), then I was 100% in. I’m not 50-50 or 70% – Aston Villa will get 100% of John Terry this year. The ambition, really, is to get us back to the Premier League and if I can, then that would be an unbelievable achievement” (Guardian)Why not just join a Premier League club from the start then? Well, that would have clearly diminished the challenge, but it would also have meant that Terry would have to face Chelsea, as an opponent.

“The mental side of playing against Chelsea was too much to get over for me. I was there for 22 years at the football club. I am very proud of that but this is a new chapter in my life and career” (BBC). And what better way to avoid such a situation than to join another former European Champion, but one that has fallen on harder times? This decade has not been kind for Villa, with the club steadily declining from a 9th placed finish in the 2010/2011 season to relegation to the Championship in 2015/2016. Hopes to immediately return to the top flight as Newcastle United have done were dashed by a disappointing 13th place finish last season. However, the arrival of Bruce has made Villa one of the favourites to go up this season, and Terry’s acquisition may be just what’s needed for all the pieces of the puzzle to start falling into place.

For a while now, Villa have seemed to lack real leadership and steel on the pitch, and the former Chelsea man can definitely provide that. Terry is also very used to the pressures of having to perform with the weight of an expectant fanbase on his shoulders, and will surely be invaluable in guiding his new teammates in this aspect. Plus, the fact that he is determined to show that he can still play at the top level seems to indicate that he won’t be resting on his laurels and having teammates do all the heavy lifting on the pitch for him – Terry has never shied away from taking responsibility, and it would be very surprising to see him do so now. Off the pitch, Terry’s signing will provide a great commercial boost for Villa. He may be a polarising figure, but that only reinforces the fact that he is a well-known figure all over the world, and certainly, will drive up shirt sales.

Terry now joins the club that he made his Chelsea debut against in 1998, coming full circle in what has been an extremely impressive career. Joining up with Villa seems like a perfect move for both parties, and it remains to be seen what this next chapter in the history of both player and club yields.

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