One of the great things about the Footballer of the Year award – quite apart from the depth of its history which stretches right back to 1948 – is that it has always taken into account far more than just performance on the pitch.
While the PFA simply name the best player, the writers honour the man who “by precept and example” is the most influential professional footballer of the season. It means we judge on character and public conduct as much as by goals scored or brilliant passes played.
There are years when it can look odd. Last season Luis Suarez seemed a worthy winner for the way he had put all his disciplinary issues behind him as he rattled in 31 Premier League goals for Liverpool. Then of course came the World Cup and that bite on Giorgio Chiellini.
I suspect it will be that experience which will make many of my colleagues worry about casting their vote for John Terry. We all know his chequered past of assorted misconduct issues. But he’ll be getting mine on the basis that he’s been the rock around which Chelsea have built their return to the status of Premier League champions.
There was a time I was leaning towards Harry Kane, but then his influence has faded while Terry’s has grown stronger in the defining last few weeks.
How many times did you see him making the crucial block that saves a goal? How many times the vital tackle or header? And his discipline has also been excellent. For a tough centre-half, the yellow card he collected at Palace was only his second in the Premier League all season.
One of the key things Mourinho did when he returned to Stamford Bridge was to contact Terry and tell him it was time for the pair of them to start winning things again. At a time in his career when he was needing to pay for his own private physio to do constant work on his battered body to keep in shape, it was the message needed that the effort would be worth it.
Pilloried of late for being boring, Chelsea could yet finish as the team to score most goals. They are certainly a value bet at [3.55] against favourites Manchester City [1.26]. Mourinho’s men are only two behind City’s 71, and with the pressure off and the freedom to play again could easily make up that gap.
Terry has been ridiculed in the past – and rightly so – for joining in the celebration of Chelsea’s European Cup triumph wearing full kit when he hadn’t played in the final. I presumed the idea was that he wanted to enjoy the pictures in years to come, relishing his part in getting to Munich for the final even if he was then suspended. And I always wondered how that would work for him, knowing in his heart of hearts that he hadn’t actually been on the pitch.
But he was at the heart of all the celebrations at Stamford Bridge yesterday and deservedly so. He hadn’t missed a minute of the 35 Premier League games it had taken Chelsea to become Champions.
I wrote back in January when Jose Mourinho’s side were knocked out of the FA Cup without him that he remained, at 34, the heartbeat of the side. If anything that view has only strengthened since.
If Suarez could win it judged on his behaviour in one season, then why can’t Chelsea’s captain, leader and legend?
There’s one more thing about Terry. The last four winners of the FWA award have all moved clubs within a few months – that won’t happen if he gets it. His loyalty to Chelsea has been total, and he has a manager who knows how important he continues to be for them.
Jose Mourinho’s side have deserved their title. And in my view their captain deserves to have his contribution recognised.
Chelsea are [2.46] favourites to win the title in 2015/16 – view the full odds here.