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I snubbed top flight to avoid facing my beloved Blues: Terry

 

By Liam Blackburn

Former England captain John Terry has rejected more lucrative offers from Chelsea's Premier League rivals to join Championship club Aston Villa on a one-year deal.

After spending 22 years at Stamford Bridge, where he won five Premier League titles and 10 other major honours, 36-year-old defender Terry became a free agent on Saturday and was unveiled as a Villa player yesterday.

Having been welcomed by owner Tony Xia on Twitter in the morning, Villa then announced Terry's arrival on social media in an imaginary WhatsApp conversation between their chairman, boss Steve Bruce, Terry and a number of players.

It was an unusual step, not unlike the one the 78-cap international has taken in swapping the Premier League champions for a club a division below.

Yet Terry has revealed the prospect of facing his former long-time employers Chelsea with a new top-flight team - such as suitors Swansea or West Brom - dissuaded him from staying in the Premier League.

"Playing against Chelsea just doesn't sit right with me," he said. "Whether that's different in a year's time, I don't know. The raw emotion of leaving the club after so long there just didn't sit right with me.

"I had a lot of big financial offers to play in the Premier League, but once I took that decision out of it this was an easy one for me.

"For a few weeks I switched off and a lot of managers gave me a lot of time and respect to make my decision. After 22 years at Chelsea it took a few weeks longer than I probably predicted. They were 22 fantastic and unbelievable years but I'm excited about this challenge."

Harry Redknapp confirmed Villa's rivals Birmingham offered the veteran defender terms, while other offers from much further afield were on the table.

"It wasn't a financial decision, if that was the case I certainly wouldn't be here," Terry added at his press conference.

"I could have played in the Premier League or on other continents. I'm here because the hunger and the ambition is the exact same as mine, and that's to win this league and get back to the Premier League."

There will be no coaching role for Terry with the Villains, though he has shown a keenness to eventually follow that route.

His immediate focus, one that became clear when he continued to train last month, is extending a senior career that began with a debut against Villa in 1998.

Terry and Bruce played golf together in Portugal last month and defender-turned-manager Bruce's sales pitch revolved around Terry's desire to carry on.

Bruce said: "We've had many conversations, but most of it was about playing the last few years of your career. I think he can still go on beyond this year but that's going to be about John's intent.

"John's been fortunate in that he hasn't had a great deal of injuries. Even when he beat me at golf he only had half a shandy..."

Terry brought the curtain down on his Blues career in controversial fashion in May having planned to be substituted in the 26th minute, a nod to his shirt number, against Sunderland at Stamford Bridge.

The Football Association are continuing to look into the matter after concern was raised when three punters who wagered a bet on Terry's substitution were paid out by a bookmaker.

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