John Terry: How should we look back on his international career?
John Terry is a footballer and human being who polarises public opinion like few others. To some, he is a true lionheart who puts his body on the line for club and country with little or no thought for his own welfare. To others, he is an irritant, another member of the much-glorified 'Golden Generation' who has failed to deliver on the elite stage. But, in the wake of his retirement from international football, how should we look back on his England career?
Terry can consider his as relatively successful - at least when looking inward at his own contributions. He has performed admirably when wearing the Three Lions on the majority of occasions - the most notable exception being the quarter-final collapse to Germany in the 2010 World Cup, during which he and makeshift partner Matthew Upson gave Thomas Muller and friends the freedom of Bloemfontein.
In contrast to that capitulation, we should remember Terry's multiple on-field heroics. His goal-line clearance to deny Stern John a goal against Trinidad and Tobago in 2006 and his brave and equally ludicrous attempt to throw his cranium in front of a goal-bound Slovenia attempt in 2010 are two examples that come to mind. Indeed as recently as this summer in Ukraine, a determined Terry hurled himself at the ball to prevent the hosts from finding the net though replays showed it had clearly crossed the line and the goal should have stood.
Regardless of his off-the-pitch misdemeanours, that is what Terry, the footballer, always gave his country: absolute effort and dedication. Which is what makes his decision to retire from international football ahead of the imminent Football Association hearing into allegations of racism against him particularly confusing.
On the one hand, Terry's decision can be understood. The Chelsea captain has already been found not guilty of a racially-aggravated public order offence, aimed at Anton Ferdinand, by Westminster Magistrates Court. Should he have to answer to an accusation relating to the same event by the FA when Her Majesty's Courts Service has already acquitted him of the charges?
On the other, Terry has always insisted he would not walk away from the national team setup, regardless of the allegations against him. Earlier this year, he told The Sun: "I'm not going to throw away my international career for anyone, I am proud to represent my country, I will never turn my back on England."
It may well turn out that the FA's pursuing of Terry is being used by the defender as a convenient moment to end his international career. At 31, he is getting no younger, and his place in the first eleven at his beloved Chelsea is already under threat from the likes of Gary Cahill and David Luiz.
Retirement from the national team will most likely prolong his time at club level, which could be as much as five years, injury-permitting. Though Terry was, in terms of footballing reasons alone, likely to keep his place for the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, it will also allow Roy Hodgson and England to explore other central defensive partnerships ahead of the tournament.
In a career which has crammed in everything from allegations of affairs and assaults to last-ditch blocks, one thing is certain about John Terry - he has consistently given his all for England. That is more than can be said for much of the rest of the under-achieving 'Golden Generation'.