On 28 October 1998, a legend was born in the heart of SW6.
Chelsea were battling it out with Aston Villa in what was then, the Worthington Cup. The headlines that day duly went to Gianluca Vialli after a sublime hat=trick but, with four minutes left on the clock, a young John Terry stepped onto the Stamford Bridge pitch for the first time.
Nobody could have predicted the kid replacing Dan Petrescu would go on to become one of the most accomplished central defenders the game has ever seen.
After a brief period spent hovering on the fringes of the first team, making mostly cameo appearances and a short spell on loan to Nottingham Forest, a place in the starting 11 was his.
Despite only being 21, in his first full season with the first team he managed to walk away with the club's Player of the Year award, becoming one of the youngest ever to win the honour. It was a remarkable season during which he notched up 33 appearances and scored five goals - stats even a full blown international would be proud of. For JT, it was just the start.
As Terry's career blossomed it quickly became apparent that even at the tender age of 21, Terry possessed leadership qualities beyond those of most players.
The confidence he instilled in his team-mates and his ability to organise the team from the back was so impressive, it resulted in him captaining the team for an FA Cup tie. The team went on to reach the final but also offered Terry the first taste of the cruelty that can be dealt by lady luck.
A virus forced the young defender from starting the match and despite coming on at half time, Chelsea were beaten 2-0 by the team of the season, Arsenal. JT spent the next few years partnering and learning from the great Desailly, filling in as captain when the Frenchman was unavailable, patiently waiting for the day he was given the band permanently, and what a special day that was.
When Jose Mourinho hit English football one of his first tasks the special one faced was filling the gaps left by the retiring Desailly. No doubt it took the Portuguese all of about ten seconds to see the man in the squad who commanded the influence and respect of his teammates and the footballing ability to match. Mr Chelsea had arrived.
Since that day his career has reached incredible heights. Every piece of silverware available glimmers in his trophy cabinet; three league titles, five FA Cups, two League Cups, two Community Shields, a Europa League title and a Champions League title are a fitting reward for a player who has given as much to the club as the pensioners skipper.
Awards and plaudits have come from the world over, only a very few players could ever hope to match the multitude of UEFA and FIFA team of the year inclusions that Terry has received. His other awards include the coveted PFA player of the year and inclusion in the 2006 World Cup team of the tournament (despite England spectacularly crashing out in the way that only England can). His reliability and superiority at CB is clearly demonstrated in his inclusion of FIFA's team of the year for five consecutive seasons, a record only beaten by Ronaldo and Messi.
The road has not always been smooth, however, with the man suffering shocking injuries and controversy both on and off the pitch. Everything from allegations of racism to accusations regarding his personal life have been played out within the media circus ring for the world to adjudicate on, and this has led to Terry having a pretty poor reputation with most of the footballing world.
These well publicised issues have led to petty little things becoming blown out of proportion, like Terry wearing his kit to collect the Champions League trophy, despite the rest of the squad doing the same. Plenty of footballers out there have equally chequered histories and yet few have received the levels of persecution that the Chelsea and former England skipper has been subjected to and even through all the controversy and negativity that has surrounded Terry's career he has always performed no matter what is going on in his life.
Heroes normally befall some tragedy along their road and Terry is no exception. His personal feelings of guilt surrounding the Champions League final penalty in 2008 might of been enough to make a weaker man crumble, but he rose above the taunts and jeers and came back stronger than ever. In more recent years suspension and injury have kept him from redeeming his fateful error on that night in Moscow and even the most anti-Terry football fan must feel a certain amount of sympathy for him on that front.
A long time has passed since that cup game all those years ago and I for one am proud to have witnessed Terry becoming not only the greatest captain in the clubs long history, but to become immortalised by the fans after so many years of complete dedication.
The man has bled for the club, cried for the club and would happily break his back for the club and there aren't many players you can say that about these days. It saddens me to think the years of laying his body on the line are starting to take their toll. Over a decade of knockouts, broken bones and frustrating, niggling little injuries has meant the curtains will soon be closing on a truly great career and the club will soon be looking for a new skipper.
That said, I know in the hearts of most fans there will only ever be one: Captain. Leader. Legend.
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