John Terry 'losing influence' at Chelsea
John Terry's political power at Chelsea has all but evaporated. The captain's influence once extended beyond the Stamford Bridge dressing room and into the boardroom, but the year-long racism scandal which ended with a four-match ban for abusing QPR's Anton Ferdinand in October last year has left the chairman Bruce Buck speaking about Terry as someone to be tolerated at the club, rather than listened to as a spokesman.
Terry's influence was held up as a major factor in the dismissal of Andre Villas-Boas last season, after the manager had tried to freshen up the side while relying less on the older members of the squad. And Claude Makelele, the former Chelsea midfielder, claimed that a row between the defender and Jose Mourinho led to the manager's exit in September 2007, after Terry had spoken to the owner, Roman Abramovich, about the pair's disagreement over his fitness.
But Buck, who is in the midst of yet another race row after the club reported the referee Mark Clattenburg to the Football Association for "inappropriate language" directed at Jon Obi Mikel, said: "Chelsea are not run by John Terry. I don't know how I can prove it to you but it's not true. My club are run by Roman Abramovich."
Buck concedes the club have a parental responsibility towards Terry and the rest of the players. And with regards to his captain's conduct, the chairman admits they have little choice but to support Terry as a player and employee, but stressed the difference between this and approval of the player's actions. He added: "I can't argue with the fact that, over the last 10 years, there have been a lot of public incidents in which Terry and Chelsea were involved.
"We have a duty of care to John Terry in loco parentis. Not that, if he did something wrong, we weren't going to say he didn't do anything wrong. But we have to support him as a person. That's different from saying that, no matter what Terry does, we approve.
"There are things players would do that we don't approve of but that doesn't mean we don't provide them with care during their problem period. The situation is a very good deterrent for others to say to themselves, maybe, I shouldn't behave in this fashion."
Terry was widely reported to be part of a cabal of senior players who engineered Villas-Boas's dismissal, but Buck flatly denied this allegation, pointing to the team's poor performances before the manager's exit.
"It didn't take the players to tell us we were not going in the right direction," Buck said. "I knew that, Mr Abramovich knew that. When Andre left, we were in a very difficult situation about to be bounced out of the Champions League, doing very poorly in the Premier League."
Buck is at pains to separate the Clattenburg affair from Terry's offence. He admits the club could have handled things differently on 28 October when the referee for Chelsea's 3-2 loss to Manchester United was accused of racially abusing Mikel, according to Buck – and Juan Mata. The Mata allegations were dropped four days later.
But he stands by the club's decision to notify the FA - and emphasised the fact that it was the club, rather than the players, who went to the governing body. "Looking into the players' eyes, I could see they were unhappy but no player or staff demanded that we file a complaint," Buck said. "They gave us their statements. The decision was made by us, the Chelsea management. Suppose we had tried to sweep this under the rug and said to the various players, 'Look, it's not a big deal and the press are going to be all over us, maybe you want to reconsider.' If that had leaked out, we would've really been crucified.
"We felt we had to issue a statement because Sky was calling up Steve Atkins [Chelsea's head of communications] saying, 'We hear there was a racial incident.' There were others who called Steve. The press room is next to the ref's office and they heard something. If we were doing it again, we would probably have worded our Sunday statement differently and not gone into the details. But hindsight is wonderful. But we had to do what we thought was right and you take the consequences.
"The press seem to juxtapose 'our support' of John Terry and what's going on here and looking at us as being a bit hypocritical. We have to divorce the John Terry situation from this. From our perspective, the latest situation was pretty straightforward. We have an obligation to report what may be misconduct."
Both Buck and Ron Gourlay, the chief executive, yesterday used gun analogies to describe the damage the tumultuous year has done to the club. Buck admitted the coverage "has made some dents in our armour", while Gourlay said: "There are things that have happened that damaged the image. There are bullet prints in our armour."
Captain Controversy: Terry's timeline
Sept 2001 Accused of insulting American tourists following a drinking session at Heathrow Airport the day after the 9/11 attacks.
Jan 2002 Charged with assault after altercation with a nightclub bouncer. He was later cleared.
March 2008 Received a £60 fine after parking his Bentley in a disabled bay at Pizza Express.
March 2009 Terry's mother and mother-in-law cautioned by police after being accused of shoplifting.
Dec 2009 Reportedly received £10,000 from undercover reporters for tour of Chelsea's training ground. Chelsea dismissed the claims.
Jan 2010 Reported that the player had an alleged affair with the former girlfriend of Wayne Bridge.
Sept 2012 Found guilty by the FA of racially abusing the Queen's Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand.
AVB was 'terminated' by Abramovich
Bruce Buck believes the Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich's decision to "terminate" Andre Villas-Boas last season was vindicated by the club's success. Villas-Boas was sacked in March this year after nine months in charge, after a defeat by West Bromwich Albion left the club in fifth, 20 points behind the leaders and eventual champions Manchester City. Roberto Di Matteo was appointed interim manager and the club went on to win the FA Cup and Champions League.
Buck said: "The proof is in the pudding: Andre was terminated and we wound up winning two trophies. I want to hear you congratulate Mr Abramovich and Chelsea for making that change."