Chelsea skipper John Terry bids farewell with final title bash
Chelsea 5-1 Sunderland
A tearful John Terry received a rousing reception and a guard of honour from team-mates on his final appearance for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge as he was substituted in yesterday's hammering of Sunderland.
The 36-year-old former England captain appeared for the Blues for the 717th time, starting in the Premier League for the sixth time this season. It was his 580th game as captain of the team.
The defender started against the relegated Black Cats as the champions won for a record 30th time this season, but came off midway though the first half in a pre-planned substitution.
Terry, for the fifth time, and Gary Cahill lifted the Premier League trophy after the 5-1 win, before Terry addressed the supporters.
"One of the most difficult days of my life," said Terry, as he paused to watch a highlights reel of his career on the big screen and waited to speak amid choruses of his name and songs sung in his honour.
Terry had led Chelsea through a guard of honour from Sunderland ahead of kick-off, walking out on to the Stamford Bridge playing surface with son Georgie and daughter Summer. The twins celebrated their 11th birthdays last week.
His speech was filled with thanks: for the supporters, the managers and team-mates from his distinguished playing career and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, whom he said "cares about this football club, from the under-eights to the first-team".
He reserved particular praise for his wife Toni and two children, who were alongside him on the pitch. All four of them were in tears.
Addressing the supporters, Terry, said: "Thank you will never, ever be enough, but I'll tell you what: I'll be back here one day. I'm going to be supporting the players and the club from the bottom of my heart.
"You've given me everything from the age of 17 when I first started out.
"You picked me up when I was down, sung my name when I've had bad days and disappointed you as well."
The timing of his pre-planned substitution was significant - Terry wears the number 26 shirt - but it came when the clock clicked on to 26 minutes, so happened in the 27th minute.
Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford obligingly kicked the ball out and visiting boss David Moyes afterwards admitted his players were aware of the plan.
Terry embraced his team-mates, who then lined up to form a guard of honour, before handing over the captain's armband to his replacement Cahill as head coach Antonio Conte looked towards next Saturday's FA Cup final with Arsenal.
Conte afterwards said: "It was very important to find the right solution to celebrate a great champion, a great legend for this club.
"He deserved to start the game and to have a substitution after 26 minutes.
"He deserved this celebration, because he wrote Chelsea's history and I wish for him and for his family the best in the future."
The reception was rousing as Chelsea supporters and Abramovich applauded the talisman as took his leave from the pitch he has known as 'home' for his entire playing career.
The game was 1-1 when Terry was replaced. Terry was the closest in attendance as Javier Manquillo scored after three minutes, but the Blues rallied in an emphatic win.
Sunderland were also the opponents when Terry lifted the Premier League trophy two years ago, after he played every minute of all 38 games that season.
Terry has been more peripheral this time around, contributing to his announcement last month that he would be leaving Chelsea after 22 years and 15 major trophies. A 16th trophy could follow at Wembley, where he could yet make a 718th appearance.
He made his first league start since September in last Monday's win over Watford, scoring his 67th goal to net for a 17th successive season.
He retained his place in the starting line-up as Conte balanced sentiment with preparations for Wembley, where he will seek to complete the double.
CHELSEA: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Terry (Cahill, 28 mins), Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso, Willian, Costa (Batshuayi, 61 mins), Hazard (Pedro, 70 mins). Unused subs: Begovic, Zouma, Matic, Chalobah.
SUNDERLAND: Pickford, Jones, O'Shea, Lescott, Manquillo, Larsson, Cattermole (Gibson, 87 mins), Rodwell, Oviedo, Januzaj (Gooch 61, mins), Borini. Unused subs: Mannone, Love, Asoro, Maja, Embleton.
Referee: Neil Swarbrick
Man of the Match: Eden Hazard
Match rating: 7/10