John Terry has finally admitted what the footballing world has known all along: that he has “never had legs”.
The Chelsea captain had a mixed game at the weekend, scoring an own goal against Everton before salvaging a point for the Blues with a clever – but very offside – last-minute equaliser.
After forming the bedrock of the Chelsea defence since the turn of the millennium, Terry has faced intense scrutiny over his form. He started all 38 games in their title-winning campaign last season, but has struggled recently.
Chelsea have conceded 34 goals in 22 Premier League matches so far this season, more than all of the 13 sides above them, with only the six sides below them conceding more regularly.
But with Terry’s contract expiring in the summer, the 35-year-old has dismissed his critics.
“I think when you get to my age, there are a lot of people out there saying ‘he’s 35, almost 36, maybe his legs have gone’,” he said. “I’ve never had legs, it’s as simple as that. I’ve never been quick, all my career.
“But, physically, I’m probably feeling as good as I’ve ever felt for the last two or three years. I’m still in the right state of mind, I’m still hungry, I want to be here, I want to finish my career here, of course. But I’m not even thinking of that.
“Last year it was a couple of months from now before things got sorted (with the contract), so the most important thing is getting us out of this and up that League table. But, hopefully, that (the contract) will come. I just have to keep plugging away.”
Interim boss Guus Hiddink also backed his captain.
“John showed his importance, not just with his equalising goal, but with his attitude and the actions he made defensively and offensively,” said Hiddink. “His commitment, in capitals, is huge for this team and this club.
“If I am asked, I will give my honest opinion about his contract. If I say what I’m saying now, spontaneously out of my heart, then you can imagine what I think.
“There’s not much difference between John in 2009 and now,” said Hiddink. “For me, you would have to underline that with data. You have to make tests that show he has lost some speed, but with the eye I cannot see that.
“He’s fit, he trains well and takes care of himself, which you have to do at that age. I cannot see that he is slowing down at all. He needs six more games to have played 700 for Chelsea and I think he will make that!”