Bridge Banter: Clarke's Baggies pose threat from within
3:39pm Friday 16th November 2012 in Sport
However long the recovery time from the weekend’s knee injury to John Terry, it was a reminder how valuable the Chelsea captain has been to the team down the years.
JT polarises opinion like few other thirtysomething senior professionals.
He’s a hero to Blues fans, witnessed by the genuine warmth of the standing ovation he received as he was stretchered off at Stamford Bridge on Sunday following a blameless collision with Liverpool striker Luis Suarez.
But he’s perceived as deeply flawed by those beyond the close-knit, often inward-looking, Chelsea family, and is the target for hateful chants which nobody would tolerate outside the cauldron of a football stadium.
Terry romped back from his recent four-match ban on Sunday with a majestic first-half display in the heart of defence, capped by a goal in the 20th minute, from Chelsea’s first corner of the match; a powerful header that rocketed past Brad Jones’s fingertips.
It was JT’s 50th goal in all competitions for the Blues, an astonishing achievement for a centre back. Of the 29 goals scored in the Premier League, 20 have been headed.
That Chelsea have cover at the back is undeniable, but goals are leaking where once they were grudgingly conceded, which says a lot about Terry’s resolve as a player, even if he’s often outpaced by younger opponents.
The Blues have a tricky encounter this weekend against the manager that knows them best, former Stamford Bridge favourite Steve Clarke.
A trip to West Brom may once have been an afternoon’s jolly… but no longer.
Clarke has not only honed and polished the Baggies into a formidable fighting unit, but his in-depth knowledge of opponents, much of it acquired as a reliable No2 at the Bridge, is second to none.
Frankly, a point from the Hawthorns will be good news, meaning the Blues will soon need to get a serious grip of their Premier League title challenge before it evaporates.