John Terry is too tired for Euro 2012Publish piece of news
John Terry is too tired for Euro 2012
After watching Tuesday night’s match at Anfield, at least Roy Hodgson’s first conundrum as England manager appeared to be resolved: he surely now knows what to do about John Terry.
From the moment he was appointed, Hodgson has been offered advice over the selection of the Chelsea captain for the forthcoming Euro 2012. Whether to pick him or not has been workshopped up into the first hurdle of his management; how he handles it defined as the opening test of his competence.
Moralists have counselled Terry’s exclusion from the squad: the England team have a wider duty to uphold certain values and can do without a man who, in but the latest indictment on an ever-lengthening charge sheet, is excluded from the Champions League final following an attempt to embed his knee into an opponent’s thigh. Pragmatists, on the other hand, have argued that England’s wellbeing matters above such niceties; Terry’s performance on the pitch, they say, should be the only selection criterion.
Hodgson has apparently sought the advice of his predecessor on matters England. And there is no doubt into which camp Fabio Capello falls on this subject. The Italian had an almost fetishistic attachment to Terry.
The first name on the team sheet, for Capello the player was a totemic choice. He needed him because he reckoned him one of the few characters in the dressing room who did not wilt the moment he pulled on a white shirt. In any argument, the qualities of leadership, drive and clenched-teethed grit that Terry epitomises easily outweighed any attendant issues; Capello thought it always worth paying for the excess baggage.
So committed was he to the Terry cause, he even resigned rather than countenance his favourite being stripped of the captaincy.
Terry, there is a caveat. The old warhorse was not without excuse for the nature of his defending. He had not suddenly turned into a bad player; after all, it was only a couple of weeks ago that we were talking of his indomitability in the face of Barcelona. But on Tuesday he looked, quite simply, exhausted.
The debilitating effects of a long season dragging Chelsea through league, cup and European campaigns, not to mention engaging in internecine feuding at the Bridge, plus addressing the odd criminal charge, was evident in his every weary attempt at an interception.
While Terry might have been able to summon his creaking resolve for one last important engagement such as the FA Cup final, there was nothing left in the tank for a meaningless run-out like the one on Merseyside. Hodgson will have seen a man not so much ready for international duty as a month in an ice bath.
But this is where things get complicated for the manager. The problem he faces is that Terry is hardly alone in his weariness. The Dutch coach Raymond Verheijen has just completed a 10-year study on burnout among top footballers.
His conclusion is that players everywhere are being overused for rapacious commercial interests and that failure to allow proper recovery time jeopardises a team’s chances of success. Frankly, you do not need to have analysed the data accrued from 27,000 matches to reach that sort of understanding. Yet, Verheijen’s study is the first to give quantifiable evidence to the notion that, for instance, a lack of recovery has a cumulative effect over a season.
Players obliged to play too soon, too often build up a growing deposit of fatigue. Sure, they are generally fit enough to carry on past the end of the domestic season into the international tournament calendar. But they will not do so at maximum efficiency. And burnout can hit without warning. Which is why World Cups and European Championships so often fail to deliver the kind of thrilling performances routinely seen in the Champions League.
When Greece won Euro 2004, eyebrows were raised across the continent. Reading Verheijen’s findings, though, we should not have been remotely surprised. Unlike those of Italy, Spain, England, France and Germany, Greece’s squad consisted of players who were not worn out by a season of competition.
Although talented individuals, most were on the edges of leading Champions League teams, competing and training to a high standard, yet selected, on average, for half as many games during the previous winter as their more celebrated rivals. What was evident in Portugal was that the Greeks still had some running in their legs.
Were Hodgson to select a squad to Ukraine still sufficiently energised to take on the best of Europe, the Verheijen model would insist it be based around players such as Ryan Bertrand, James Milner and Adam Johnson, fringe members of Champions League sides who have not been played to the point of exhaustion. But how many such specimens are there available?
And that is where Hodgson is placed into an immediate and familiar selection predicament. Terry may be self-evidently dead on his feet, his performance on Tuesday may be a thin parody of his best, all logic may well insists he is given the summer off. But what real alternative does the manager have? Rio Ferdinand, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are just as drained, Gary Cahill, Michael Dawson and Phil Jagielka all compromised by injury. The truth is, anyone who is any good will be as tired as Terry. And anyone who is not tired will not be any good.
The decision whether or not to choose the Chelsea captain does indeed go to the heart of the Englanda manager’s position. Welcome to the impossible job, Roy.
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