The story of how Chelsea's legendary skipper became a short-term hero at the City Ground...
John Terry wasn't really wanted at Chelsea. World Cup-winning French fancies Frank Leboeuf and Marcel Desailly were Gianluca Vialli's centre-backs, veteran Jes Hogh was reminding people he still existed and rightly or wrongly, Emerson Thome was getting a lot of game time as well. It seemed there was no need for this English teenager to hang around for the end of the 1999/00 campaign.
Meanwhile, Nottingham Forest supporters couldn't wait for the season to end.
Having finished bottom of the Premier League, the Reds' bid to go straight back up under player-manager David Platt was falling apart like a wet flan. When Johnny Forest Fan heard a young loanee was to be their 11th centre-back that season, he probably didn’t rush to take his head out of the oven.
But like a sun-kissed holiday fling, Terry and Forest came together for a beautiful six-game relationship. “Right from the off, he was clearly better than any other centre-half we’d used that season,” raves supporter Andy Kerr. “He was brave, aerially dominant, read the game well and had no problems bossing his older, more senior partners at centre-back. He appeared quicker than all of them, too, which only goes to illustrate how slow they were. Actually, we didn’t lose with Terry in a Forest shirt.”
The future England captain’s famed commitment, always passionate bordering on psychotic, was evident even then. “We had some snow,” recalls team-mate Christian Edwards, “and the lads would go to training all wrapped up – but John would train in a pair of shorts, happily sliding and diving around in the snow. Everyone else was thinking, ‘What is he doing?’ You could see he was a natural born leader as well: he was outgoing and vocal, and really liked to banter and play around.”
The next season, Forest finished mid-table again (and at the time of writing are yet to return to the Premier League’s warm embrace) while a 20-year-old Terry started half of Chelsea’s league games, despite the challenge of Desailly, Leboeuf and, erm, Winston Bogarde.
But things could have turned out very, very differently. With Vialli willing to sell Terry, clubs were on red alert, including Steve Bruce’s Huddersfield. “I bid £750,000 for him, a lot of money then, and Chelsea accepted it,” Bruce later revealed. “But the boy didn’t want to leave Stamford Bridge.”
Terry stayed at Chelsea to fight for a place, and the rest is history. At times controversial, but always successful history.