Chelsea and England captain John Terry may be in his 14th season as a professional footballer, but his desire to win is as strong as ever.
Now, with the Three Lions pushing for qualification to the 2012 European Championship in Poland and Ukraine, the 30-year-old centre-back talks to FourFourTwo.com about wearing the captain’s armband for his country – and where he and England go from here...
People often describe you as a born leader, and we have this image of you giving chest-pumping team talks before England matches. Do you really do it?
I have done them at Chelsea and England but it’s important that we’ve got Stevie [Gerrard], who’s the captain of Liverpool, Rio [Ferdinand], who’s been captain of Manchester United Lamps [Frank Lampard], who has been captain at Chelsea like myself and Rooney and Hart. We’ve got some really good characters in the squad; people who naturally have their say before a big game or at half-time, so even though I’ve got the armband on, the others still carry a lot of weight in the dressing room.
The team talks are done before the players go out on the pitch: it’s the last thing said in the dressing room and sometimes it can be very inspiring for the lads.
Do you think too much fuss is made over the England captaincy, or does it deserve the hype?
Absolutely it does. I think other countries are very different to us and maybe don’t regard it as highly, but in this country the international captaincy is held in very high esteem. As a boy I dreamed of playing for my country, but to captain England was right at the very top of my list.
Obviously there’s even more pressure on you as captain, but that doesn’t seem to affect you. Does pressure bring out the best in you; motivate you more?
Pressure is something you learn to deal with as a footballer and the bigger the game the bigger the pressure but I really enjoy the big games, but my motivations is winning and believe me there Is no better feeling.
One picture that sticks out from your whole career is from last year’s World Cup match against Slovenia: you diving headlong in front of the ball to block a shot. Does that epitomise how you feel about playing for the Three Lions?
Yeah, I love playing for my country. I think there have been suggestions that players don’t care, but it’s the complete opposite. I’ve seen it in the dressing room – there are tears. When you’re in a World Cup, if you take one on the face or the backside or wherever, as long as that ball stays out of the goal you just dust yourself down and get on with it. I think everyone else is like me – desperate to win something for their country.
But were the suggestions that players were bored at the World Cup accurate?
I think people take players being ‘bored’ in the wrong context. If you’re at home and you have a game on the Saturday, you may go for a game of golf on the Thursday, then go shopping and for a coffee with your wife, or go to the park with the kids. Sometimes we can be restricted in doing that, so what else can you do but sit in your hotel room for six to eight hours a day? It can get quite mundane but we understand we have to rest and recuperate.
So there’s still an insatiable hunger within the England squad to do well?
Yes, there’s a natural drive within us to win. As a fan, you want to see the players try and work harder, which we’ll always do. You’re not going to win every game, but we certainly have the players to move forward.
We’re seeing a lot of really good young players coming in and proving themselves: young Jack [Wilshere] has been brilliant, and so has [Ashley] Young. There have been so many that have come in since the World Cup to improve the squad and maybe cement th�eir places for this next big tournament ahead of us. I think if I was a fan, I’d be encouraged by what I’ve seen in the last few games.
Do you think it was a good move to bring in these younger players?
As a country when we don’t win we naturally blame the more experienced players and say, let’s change them all. I think when you don’t win and you get knocked out of tournaments, fans and the media look to blame the older players. We suffer it at Chelsea as well. I don’t think people’s initial reaction – “Let’s get rid of the old and bring in the young” is the right way to go about things.
What [Fabio Capello] has done is assessed the situation and brought in a few new faces, but kept all the older, more experienced players with a lot of caps under their belts, who bring a lot to the training ground, pitch and dressing room at the right times. This can be a great mixture.
Has there been any change in mood since the World Cup, then?
Yeah, the manager came in and spoke to the lads. He said, “It’s a clean start – now we go again.” We have to get through this campaign, and we’ve made a good start. So there’s a good mood in the camp, which comes with winning, and the main thing is that the manager’s happy. Believe me: you don’t want to see him cross. And despite what you might read, the players get on really well. There are big players from big clubs, and the rivalry we see in the Premier League is obviously there, but when we come together it’s good to see everyone get on so well.
And after all you’ve been through with England, you still play with passion and heart – but has there ever been a time when you’ve questioned your own drive?
I feel very lucky and very privileged to pull on the England shirt, and that is something I have felt from a very young age. I have targets: to make 100 caps – I’m still 31 caps off, so that’s my ambition – and obviously to win trophies and big tournaments.
Interview: Ben Welch. John Terry is wearing the new Umbro England Away kit. The return of blue to the shirt gives it a smart modern look with a classic English navy colour. Combining football tailoring with modern performance benefits, the shirt is on sale now. Visit umbro.com