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PFA Player of the Year – Why not John Terry?

[dropcap]H[/dropcap]e isn’t particularly popular, he isn’t particularly glamorous either, but Chelsea’s skipper deserves to be mentioned in the bracket of players vying for the accolade of player of the season.

The front-runners for the award appear to include Terry’s team-mate Eden Hazard, Sergio Agüero, Harry Kane and Alexis Sánchez. Other names like Philippe Coutinho, David De Gea, Santi Cazorla and Diego Costa have also been mentioned, but not Terry’s.

Strange, when you consider that he’s been one of the would-be champions best performers all season. Not just that, but the former England captain has – at the age of 34 lest we forget – managed to lead yet another successful title charge and looks set to lift the trophy in May for the fourth time in his career.

He’s featured in 42 of Chelsea’s 47 matches thus far and has been an ever-present in the league. And while all the attention might be focused on the flair of Hazard or the excitement of new signings Costa and Cesc Fàbregas, Terry has been quietly, confidently and consistently going about his business in typically lion-hearted fashion.

Chelsea’s defensive record is second only to Southampton this season, but since Mourinho’s return in 2013 and Terry’s reintroduction to the first eleven (after Benitez appeared to be trying to phase him out) their solidity at the back seems to have returned for the first time in years.

A victim perhaps of bad press, Terry has not only been a consistent performer for Chelsea recently but he’s also been operating at a level some deem to be the best of his career. Calls for him to return to the England national team have been frequent but also been in vain (particularly as international retirement has arguably been one of the biggest reasons behind Terry’s recent form). Weekly world-class performances at the heart of a team who appear to be coasting the league at the age of 34 is something we ought to be celebrating and commending. But celebrating John Terry isn’t exactly in style at the moment.

After a similarly impressive campaign last term, John Terry was overlooked by his peers for inclusion in the PFA Team of the Year with his deputy Gary Cahill getting the vote instead. This was a significant indication that Terry’s past indiscretions haven’t been forgotten, as only a lack of popularity would cause anyone to suggest that Cahill was better than Terry last season, and the same can be said this season.

Chelsea’s defenders have come in for a lot of praise this season. Branislav Ivanović has continually popped up with vital goals, Cahill has cemented his place at the back following the departure of David Luiz, Kurt Zouma has impressed despite only making a handful of appearances and César Azpilicueta was described by Sky’s Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher as the best defender in the league. But Terry has been the pick of this extremely impressive bunch.

Perhaps after eleven years at the top we’ve grown so used to the consistency of Chelsea’s ‘Captain, Leader, Legend’ that we simply take his quality for granted, after all, when you compare his form this season to the likes of Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany, you begin to appreciate how difficult consistency can be, and at the same age as Steven Gerrard, the influence and importance Terry still has to his side, compared to the Liverpool skipper, is nothing short of remarkable.

The likes of Agüero, Sánchez, Costa, Fàbregas, Kane and even Hazard have all experienced dips in form during the campaign, but Terry’s form has remained on point since August. Last weekend was the perfect opportunity for Terry to show his age. Playing on a scorching afternoon at Loftus Road, getting booed with every touch he took and coming to blows a few times with Rangers’ striker Charlie Austin, the Chelsea skipper kept his cool and was arguably Chelsea’s best performer yet again in what was an extremely hostile atmosphere and he managed to lead his team to a vital three points.

Terry will never be a popular figure in English football, and he has no one to blame but himself for that, but it seems a shame that his superb form looks set to receive little recognition. Sports writer Patrick Barclay said recently that many journalists refused to vote for Terry for the Football Writers’ Player of the Year award last season on the grounds of his controversial past, but seemed to have no trouble voting for Luis Suárez despite similar controversies.

Sure, the Stamford Bridge faithful will always recognise his class and importance and perhaps that’s enough for the defender, but his performances over the past few months have been consistently world class and he deserves the label of the league’s best centre back.

Too generous? I struggle to think of a defender, let alone a centre back, who has outperformed him this season.

Has John Terry been the player of the season? Well it’s tough to answer, but his name certainly deserves a mention up there alongside Hazard, Agüero, Sánchez and Kane. Maybe defenders aren’t popular enough (after all only three defenders have won the award since 1976 – Terry in ‘05, Paul McGrath in ’93 and Gary Pallister in ‘92), maybe John Terry isn’t popular enough, but it shouldn’t be a popularity contest, this is an award for the best performer of the season, and there’s no doubt whatsoever that John Terry deserves to be right up there.

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