Spurs fans give John Terry taste of what's to come
Innocent until proven guilty is a fundamental aspect of United Kingdom law but John Terry will face the judgement of every set of football fans before going on trial in February if last night's match at White Hart Lane is any gauge.
The 31-year-old would always receive a less than hospitable welcome at Tottenham, given the history of antipathy between the clubs, but the racism charge he must now fight has created deeper divisions in opinion on an already divisive individual. The time lag in Terry's case makes this is a situation he must handle for, in all likelihood, the rest of the season. Antagonism is something he is used to but this is different.
Chelsea's resilient display will have helped the time pass on the shortest day of the year but, in terms of character assassination, Terry is in for a bleak midwinter. Following Manchester United supporters' adaptation of a popular Liverpool song – replacing the words "Luis Suarez" with "Racist bastard" – the Spurs faithful gave Terry a torrid time.
It was a chaotic first half, with Terry underhitting a pass to Raul Meireles within seconds of kick-off to prompt a Spurs attack, and suggest the intensity of the occasion had permeated one of the thickest-skinned players around.
Things went from bad to worse as Gareth Bale tore down the left flank and Terry failed to rescue the situation as Emmanuel Adebayor collected the cross to side-foot Spurs in front.
Terry was slow to react to that situation, to the unbridled delight of the home support, and so the catcalls from the stands intensified. "Terry's going down, Terry's going down" and "John Terry – you know what you are."
But Terry and Chelsea responded in typically robust fashion when Daniel Sturridge equalised and the visitors won a grounding in the match.
But nothing is straighforward for Terry right now. Branislav Ivanovic was forced off injured, prompting a defensive reshuffle with Jose Bosingwa deputising at centre-back and Paulo Ferreira making a rare appearance at right-back.
Terry's talent for inducing stability was tested but he responded well, even going close to the ultimate riposte to his detractors with a header from Juan Mata's 54th-minute corner.
He was left writhing late on after a poor tackle by Adebayor – who, having already committed at least two fouls since a first-half booking, was inexplicably not then sent off – but recovered his poise to help steer Chelsea to a well-earned point, not least courtesy of his late goal-line clearance from the Togo international.
There was no unedifying T-shirt display from the Chelsea squad, but the travelling support remained behind their man. "There's only one England captain," they chanted throughout, defiantly ignoring the uncertainty that now must exist over that position.
"He's won the Double, he's won the Double," they crowed with equal ebullience. They were on safer ground there but no one is arguing about his success. Sympathy for Terry is in short supply, given his chequered past, while his abrasive on-field demeanour is not an endearing characteristic to opposing fans.
They are, of course, not dispassionate judges, so Terry must suffer the indignity of many more nights such as this before receiving the opportunity to clear his name in court. But football – if any reminder were needed – is far too tribal and impatient to wait.