When Chelsea captain John Terry signed a new one-year contract last May he could hardly have envisaged sitting impotently on the sidelines for half of the new campaign as his beloved club stuttered to one of their worst starts in years.
In the wake of another poor defensive performance by Jose Mourinho’s team while losing 2-1 away to Porto in the Champions League on Tuesday, pundits and supporters alike are questioning how long the manager can continue to ignore a player he once described as ‘untouchable’.
Before meeting the Portugese club where he made his name, Chelsea’s manager was forced to admit that none of his players came into that category now, which he proved by leaving out Player of the Year Eden Hazard, the previously reliable Nemanja Matic, Brazilian midfielder Oscar and Terry.
After playing for every minute of the 38 Premier League games last season, it was the fourth time in five matches that the club captain has been left sitting among the substitutes.
In only the second game of the season he had suffered the ignominy of being taken off at half-time as the defending champions lost 3-0 to Manchester City.
Instead of glamour matches against the likes of Arsenal and Porto, his only appearance recently was in front of barely 10,000 people for a League Cup tie at third-tier Walsall.
For the big games, England international Gary Cahill has been partnered in central defence with the 20 year-old Frenchman Kurt Zouma.
Neither impressed in the two most recent matches against struggling Newcastle United and Porto as Chelsea conceded two goals each time. They have already lost more matches than in the whole of last season.
With right-back Branislav Ivanovic given the captain’s armband and looking completely out of sorts, critics are wondering how long it can be before the Terry is recalled.
“What must John Terry think as he watches from the substitutes’ bench while Ivanovic seemingly survives error after error, match after match?” asked the Daily Telegraph on Wednesday.
“The reason remains a mystery,” the Daily Mail wrote of Terry’s continued absence. “Can they be much worse with Terry at the back? He would bring leadership and organisation at least.”
At 34, it is generally accepted that Terry may have lost a little pace, but many observers believe his vast experience would compensate.
Former Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand, though he has had his differences with Terry in the past, spoke on Sky Sports of Chelsea “lacking leaders”.
Steve McManaman, once of Liverpool and Real Madrid, who was also covering the game, described him as “the ultimate professional” and said there will be games when he is called upon again.
For many Chelsea fans even this Saturday’s home game against Southampton would not be soon enough.