Terry a victim of Benitez’ equal opportunities policy?

With Chelsea looking a defensive basket case, why can't John Terry get a regular game for the Blues?

Terry a victim of Benitez’ equal opportunities policy?

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March 13th, 2013

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Terry has not started a Premier League game since the trip to Newcastle at the beginning of last month, though he has been a regular fixture on the Chelsea bench. That has led many to ask whether or not the defender is fit to play, as in most Blues fans’ minds he is an automatic pick when cleared by the medics.

Supporters who have seen their captain play week-in, week-out for more than a decade know that at this stage in his career he may not still be at his physical best. But they also know he can still do more to carry the expectations and raise the aspirations of any team he is a part of – as he has shown for both club and country – than almost any other player. Benitez, however, sees a different player. It probably isn’t restricted just to Terry, as Benitez seems to see all players differently to how many fans, pundits and even managers perceive them.

Speaking as part of a fascinating and enlightening examination of the Benitez/Chelsea situation on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sports Week, former Liverpool Chief Executive Christian Purslow hit the nail on the head.

“He feels very, very strongly that all players should be treated equally,” he told Garry Richardson. “In fact, I’d say that’s almost a defining characteristic of his management strategy.”

That explains a lot of Benitez’ team selections and substitutions: frequently switching Eden Hazard of late, when he has proved time and again he is one of the few in the squad who can dictate the flow of a match, in favour of players such as Victor Moses or Marko Marin. Benitez sees them all as equal. It would be an admirable facet of The Interim One’s character, were it not bestowed on one charged with managing a team to get results.

Hence two centre halves – be they Terry and Gary Cahill, or Terry and David Luiz – seem to be judged equally based on the fact that they are both defenders who can play in the middle. Benitez looks to Terry, at the most probably only 80 to 90% fit at any point in the last five years, and sees an unfit defender.

Others see a man who can turn that 80 to 90% into 100%, or even more, through a commanding influence that has nothing to do with fitness and is all about attitude. A man who can, over a sustained period of playing when not entirely fit, turn an average team into one who achieves the seemingly impossible.

Benitez just shrugs and says he is: “Concentrating only on the next game.”

Many have speculated that Terry’s Chelsea career is coming to an end: and it is a truism that he is closer to the day he hangs up his boots now, than he was at this point last year.

But once Chelsea get a permanent manager who understands the merits of their ‘Captain, Leader, Legend’ beyond mere Opta Stats, the Lionheart defender will find he has plenty of football left to play.

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