Muted Terry rides storm at raucous White Hart Lane
John Terry looked like a man with lots on his mind as he stood in the tunnel. He swallowed hard and strode into the blaze of flashbulbs alongside Ledley King, his old team-mate from the east London boys club Senrab.
Terry seemed unusually preoccupied. Eighteen months ago, he and King were at the heart of England’s defence at the start of the World Cup finals. On Thursday night they were duelling at the top of the Barclays Premier League and Terry was shaping up for another fight, this time in the courtroom.
It is perhaps the fight of his life and certainly the fight of his career as he tries to clear his name. There is so much for him to lose, from lucrative commercial contracts to an armband and a reputation.
Centre of a storm: John Terry led Chelsea at Tottenham just 24 hours after he was told he must appear in court to answer a racism charge
Two hours later, he had been empowered by a solid performance, a heroic point-saving clearance in thedying seconds of the game and more undiluted adulation from Chelsea supporters.
Terry strode towards the corner of the pitch where the away fans stood to cheer his name. He beat his chestand waved his arm, stripped off his shirt and gave it away.
Spurs fans gave him an earful of abuse but Chelsea had edged this draw (although a point does little to help either club) and Terry had responded to the pressure as he usually does despite a shaky start.
Nervousness from the tunnel seemed tospill into the game, as he picked the wrong option and made a poor passto Raul Meireles, who was dispossessed by Scott Parker and Spurs sprawled forward.
Seconds later, a better touch, a firmdefensive header, this time to Didier Drogba, but Chelsea were behind in nine minutes as Terry lost his man and Emmanuel Adebayor forced in Gareth Bale’s low cross.
His skin is thick. Terry has proved that in the past but this was a test. This particular narrative started in a London derby, two months ago today, at Queens Park Rangers.
Like Thursday night, that game was frantic. Like Thursdaynight, there was an electric atmosphere. Like Thursdaynight, Chelsea went behind early and were on the ropes. Like Thursday night, Chelsea lost two players before half-time, although lastnight they were injured and replaced, not sent off.
Game saver: Terry was at his brilliant best when he kept Emmanuel Adebayor”s late effort out using his backside
Spurs went into this game having not lost a London derby here in the Premier League for more than four years.Terry could barely have selected a more hostile environment for his first game since police charged him with aiming a racist remark at AntonFerdinand.
Abuse rained down from the stands from the moment the Chelsea players emerged for a warm-up, 30 minutes before kick-off. Spurs fans went in hard at times, some of the chants belted out with more gusto than others.
There were no T-shirts of protest/support from the Blues. After Liverpool’s crass attempt to back Luis Suarez follwing his eight-match ban for racist remarks aimed at Patrice Evra, the Stamford Bridge hierarchy pre-empted any copycat stunt.
Chelsea’s senior players were reminded it was inappropriate, not least because the cases are at different stages and the charges dealt out by different authorities.
True Blue: The captain gave his shirt to one of the elderly fans in the crowd
Strange though that this patch of grass just off the Tottenham High Road should become the focal point for the race debate.
Not far from here, in August, police shot a black man and the event sparked riots which spread across the country. The High Road still bears the scars. This week, those accused of murdering Stephen Lawrence are in court.
Place in my heart: Terry should his appreciation to the Chelsea fans who supported him
Football’s issues are incomparable, yet there is a connection and footballers are expected to embrace the role of standard-setters in modern society. It goes with the salary and the stardom.
Terry did not dodge last night’s gamedespite squeezing a nerve in his achilles tendon in training on Monday,just two days after jarring his knee at Wigan.
As a thrilling game pulsated, he found his rhythm and stepped up again when Ivanovic limped off injured, forcing Jose Bosingwa into central defence and Paulo Ferreira on for hisfirst Premier League appearance of the season.
Terry powered a header towards goal as the visitors took control after the break but it was too close to Brad Friedel, the Tottenham goalkeeper. He became more vocal, yelling orders the length of the pitch to Fernando Torres as the Blues sought a winner.
The worst part seemed to be the waiting and the waiting was over. Terry seemed at ease again in the midst of the chaos and, at times, the game was so absorbing that the home crowd forgot to shout abuse.
Until, that is, he exaggerated a foul by Adebayor in an effort to provoke a second yellow card for the Spurs striker.
Then they remembered. Just as they did when he slid across the goal-line to deny Adebayor in stoppage time,then thumped his chest and saluted the Chelsea fans before disappearingdown the tunnel.