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Following the news that John Terry has been found guilty of racially abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand and that he will no longer pull on the famous white jersey of England, there will be many that see this as a triumph for the decent over the disgraceful. Despite his many controversial mistakes, his footballing ability has never been called into question. While Terry has been on a mission of self-destruction for as long as the mind remembers, there is the argument that we have pushed and harried England’s best defender and leader into early retirement, and our reasons are completely non-football related.

Mark Lawrenson said on Match of the Day 2, “It seems Terry is pre-empting the FA by retiring. He’s almost citing a witch-hunt with his statement. But away from that, he’s always been outstanding for England as a leader and a player on the pitch. They will miss him”.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and defend a man who has compiled a shameful repertoire, which rivals even the infamous Joey Barton, if a little less sociopathic. He is guilty of a multitude of misdemeanours, all of which could have been easily avoided with even the slightest hint of brain power. Problems were clear right from the start of his career; from kicking off repeatedly at night clubs to revealing his sensitive understanding of world affairs by mocking American tourists at Heathrow airport days after 9/11 – it was plain to see from an early age that Terry was, in many respects, a bad egg.

What followed was the Wayne Bridge affair in 2010, a tumultuous period that cost him the England captaincy as punishment. Who would have believed that Terry, having been reinstated, would lose it again less than a year later? The irrepressible cloud that has hung over Terry since the incident of apparent racism against Anton Ferdinand in 2011 has not since dissipated, and Terry has cited the FA’s stance on the matter as the key factor in his decision to retire.

Having been cleared of racially abusing Ferdinand in July, Terry found himself the subject if an FA investigation into the matter. Objectively, you can understand Terry’s evident frustration at this. He was found not guilty, but the FA still pressed charges against him. Their decision to do so, whether you agree with the punishment or not, has been vindicated with Terry found guilty of the FA enquiry. It is evident however that they no longer wanted him to play for England, and his decision to retire will have been met with relief from English football’s governing body, but will there be a cost for their obsession?

Terry is a colossal leader and an outstanding defender. He is, and has been for the best part of a decade, a footballing role model for young defenders the world over. Of this, there is no question. It is worth noting that Terry is no longer the powerhouse defender that he was, but he is still only 31 and in footballing terms a player of his quality will be hard to replace. Fabio Cannavaro led Italy to a World Cup triumph in 2006 at the age of 33 and in an ideal world Terry would play on helping nurture his future replacements.

His two worlds are separate; his ugly, off the field side, and his heroic performances on it. Unlike other bad boys of English football, he has been able to shut out the destructive, and concentrates on leading his team to victory. We all expect a trail of injured players and multi-coloured cards to follow when the likes of Lee Catermole, Marlon King and Ryan Shawcross take the field, but Terry is different, as much as we hate to admit it.

Terry has led Chelsea to three Premier League titles, four FA cups, two League cups and a Champions league since 2004, making him Chelsea’s most successful captain. He was named Uefa Club Defender of the Year in 2005, 2008 and 2009. He was PFA Player’s Player of the year in 2005, and was also in the FIFAPro World XI from 2005 to 2008. As England captain, he always displayed absolute professionalism on the pitch throughout his tenure.

The endorsements from England bosses are endless. Fabio Capello resigned on the eve of Euro 2012 after Terry was stripped of the captaincy for the second time; Roy Hodgson consistently backed Terry, and always picked him to start for England right up until his retirement. Asked whether the Chelsea skipper is a natural leader in 2001, Steve McLaren told the BBC: “Yes, of course he is. I think everyone accepts that, everyone can see it, everybody who knows John Terry behind the scenes knows that.” McLaren was almost right. Yes, everyone can see he is a leader, no doubt those who work with him know that he is (with a few notable exceptions), but the nation cannot and probably never will accept John Terry.

Written by Tom Gatehouse. See more of his work at: http://goodbadribery.blogspot.co.uk/ or follow him on twitter @tragatehouse

 
Edited by Charlie Cook @charlie_cook09

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It wasn’t very long ago that Belgium were considered relative minnows on the international stage. Stuck in a state of turmoil, with a thin squad of average players and a record that would have most managers shiver at the thought, the future looked bleak, but this is no longer the case. After comfortably ousting Wales, 2-0, last Saturday in their World Cup qualifier, we can see a real maturity and patience growing within their team. Couple this with their outstanding first eleven, and a larger squad size; it could be said that we are witnessing the birth of a European superpower.

Belgium celebrate during their 2-0 win over Wales

When one thinks of the great footballing nations of the world, the mind reels off the obvious: Brazil, Germany, Spain, England, and France to name a few. Modern football has been shaped by these national powerhouses, and it seems that those in the elite will never fall from grace. Every generation brings a new crop of outstanding players and, with the right manager at the helm, these nations always challenge for the top honours. This is even translated into club football, with the leagues of England, Italy, Spain and Germany striding above the rest.

A player will emerge from the smaller nations every once in a while, players with such outstanding ability, that the world looks on and almost pities their doomed exploits on the international stage. George Weah for Liberia and Gheorghe Hagi from Romania are such examples of world class talent coming from nations not generally known for producing high calibre players. What is happening in Belgium however is potentially unprecedented on a footballing level; and with the squad at their disposal, their stock will only continue to rise.

Thibault Courtios, the young goalkeeper signed by Chelsea in 2011, cemented himself as Athletico Madrid’s no. 1 in their Europa Cup winning side last year. In defence they have the captain of Manchester City, Vincent Kompany; as well as Arsenal’s superb centre-back and skipper, Thomas Vermaelen, and Tottenham’s solid new signing Jan Vertonghen.

The midfield is packed full of young, exciting talent, with the mercurial Eden Hazard the stand out player. He has made an impressive start to his Premier League career at Chelsea already topping the assists chart. Marouane Fellaini too has been a revelation at Everton (much to the dismay of Manchester Utd, who fell prey to a Fellaini master-class on the first day of the season). If you add Axel Witsel, signed for £32 million by Zenit St Petersburg, Tottenham’s new recruit Moussa Dembele, and Chelsea’s Kevin De Bruyne to the mix, Belgium are well stocked in almost every area.

Eden Hazard

In the way of strikers, Romelu Lukaku is something of a celebrity for the Belgians, having had a reality TV show made during his rise to fame with Anderlecht. Dubbed as ‘the new Drogba’, he has struggled to make an impact at Chelsea, but he is only 19 years old, and he looks a formidable prospect. He has already played 17 times for his country, scoring 3 times. Kevin Mirallas is another Belgium international to have made a move to the Premier League, and if he can produce the form which has seen him score 34 goals in 52 games at Olympiacos then he could have a real impact. 21 year old Christian Benteke opened his account for Aston Villa on the weekend too. Belgium have a real mixture of styles, Lukaku relies on his size and strength, Mirallas is renowned for his pace and Benteke is somewhat of a poacher.

It’s not a matter of just putting these players on the pitch and watching the results come in though. The win over Wales was followed by a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Croatia. Despite having a myriad of talent coming through the ranks, Belgium have yet to gel consistently. England themselves have seen their so called ‘golden generation’ of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and co. come and go without much impact on the international stage. However, if Marc Wilmots, the Belgian coach, can find the right blend then they have the quality throughout the team to be a real force.

What is most  impressive is that these players are all under 26. There is a feeling of real optimism amongst the Belgian public. Tickets were sold out in a matter of hours for their match against Croatia. While it can be said that greater emphasis has been placed on the development in the youth setups by Belgian clubs, most fans and journalists are putting their apparent ‘golden generation’ of players down to a matter of luck, more than judgement. It is this unexpected rebirth that makes Belgium such a mouth-watering, footballing prospect.

Written by Tom Gatehouse. See more of his work at: http://goodbadribery.blogspot.co.uk/ or follow him on twitter @tragatehouse
 
Edited by Charlie Cook @charlie_cook09
 
Thoughts and comments welcome, all support appreciated!

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