As John Terry creates more headlines for himself, celebrating in exaggerated fashion with his captain’s armband after Chelsea’s second own goal in the FA Cup against Stoke (sorry…? Deflections only go down as “own goals” when United score?), you have to wonder where he gets this attitude from.
Why does he think it’s OK to have an affair with the mother of his best friend’s child, cheat on his own wife and mother of his two kids, then offer no public apology? Why does he think it’s OK to make a scene over his demotion as England captain by celebrating the fact his club are happy to let him screw over a man who shared the dressing room with him at Stamford Bridge for six years? Why does he sit back and show no distaste for the disgraceful fans who booed Bridge every time he went near the ball a few weeks ago?
This arrogance and self-loving seeps through the make up at Chelsea, dripping through to the other players and in to the fans. Terry, who was always a “captain, leader and legend” to them has become like a god since news of the affair broke. This is no Beckham post-World Cup 98 or Ronaldo-post World Cup 06 moment, whereby our fans supported two players who had been this country’s scapegoats for yet another year of failure. They are worshipping a man who has shown himself to have no respect for his mates, for his wife, for his children and for his country.
Ahead of David Beckham’s return tonight, Matt Dickinson has written an article in The Independent which explains why our players and our club is different to theirs:
One of his greatest legacies at Old Trafford [is] something as impressive as filling the trophy cabinet throughout more than two decades.
It is Ferguson’s achievement in turning United into not merely a football club, but an educational establishment; in producing not just better footballers, but better people. And Beckham, despite being cast out, is more than happy to add his glowing testimony.
Speak to Beckham about his formative years at United and he will talk, as will any of those who have come through the youth ranks, about the lessons repeatedly drummed into them: humility, respect for elders, desire, determination, loyalty, good manners. Ferguson demands them from the club’s young players even if, in the frenzy of competition, he is not always able to live up to those values himself.
This all came to mind the other day when a fascinating observation was offered by a senior England official: he could differentiate clearly between the players of Chelsea and United. One group had a swagger around the camp, a confidence that sometimes seeped into cockiness. Those from the North West, he said, were more humble and respectful.
It is the difference between Ferguson’s United and Chelsea, where managers have been chopped and changed, sometimes almost at the whim of the squad, and respect for authority eroded. The players have power because many of them were lured for huge contracts and money is what binds them to the club. If contracts are not improved, they make threats.
At United, no one doubts who is the boss. No one questions who will win the arguments. They know that there is only so far they can push their luck, their behaviour or their demands for better pay.
But it is about more than shouting; it is about nurturing young players so that they have the character to thrive when they make it into the first team. It is a system born of stability and longevity, something attempted only at those few clubs where they plan beyond next week.
They do that at United, where Ferguson still involves himself in developing the youth, telling young aspirants that it is not success that should make them proud, but hard work.
Ferguson cannot give players hunger; that must come from within. But he can find the right characters and help to shape them. He did that with Beckham and might have continued doing so had the player not fallen for a Spice Girl and the glamorous lifestyle that came with her.