John Terry has waited a long time for just one shot at redemption and now a whole bunch have arrived at once.
Not only has Terry helped Chelsea resurrect its season, he is also poised to be handed back the England captaincy that was stripped from him after a much-publicized extramarital affair.
However, it was Friday's Champions League draw that offers the controversial defender the ultimate chance to mute his mental demons, as the soccer gods paired Chelsea with Manchester United in what promises to be an electrifying two-legged quarterfinal.
As you will surely remember it was against United that Terry suffered the worst moment of his professional career in the 2008 Champions League final at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium. Presented with the chance to win the trophy with Chelsea's fifth attempt in the penalty shootout, Terry slipped mid-kick, sent his effort crashing against the post and could only look on as United clinched the title.
Those agonizing memories persist, and another shot at the same opponent in the same competition may be the only way Terry can start to reconcile his feelings of the incident.
"If Chelsea are able to reach the final at Wembley it would be a good revenge for 2008," Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti said. "The past is the past. It will be a different game this time. The players didn't have a bad or good reaction to the draw, it was a normal reaction. But it is fantastic motivation to look forward to the future."
After the lowest period of a turbulent career, finally things are starting to go right again for Terry. With Rio Ferdinand still struggling with injury it looks very much like Terry will get another chance to lead England, with national team boss Fabio Capello insisting he has been "punished enough."
Ferdinand does not want to lose the armband without a fight, but public opinion is swaying back toward Terry, who has generally kept himself out of trouble since claims emerged that he had a relationship with the ex-girlfriend of England colleague Wayne Bridge.
"(Terry) is old enough to understand that it's an important role as England captain, Chelsea captain and one of the most important players in the world," Capello said. "In England, you always look for something critical about the players, and little things are really big for you. But it is important to remember that even though Rio was captain, my first captain was John Terry, then Rio, then Steven Gerrard.
"Rio was a good captain, Steve was a good captain, John Terry was a good captain – but my first choice was John Terry."
Terry will get another chance to continue his recent professional revival this weekend when Chelsea takes on Manchester City in a vital English Premier League clash. Just a few weeks back, Chelsea's campaign looked utterly doomed, with United apparently set to sail off into the distance.
However, a series of United stumbles combined with a strong Chelsea surge has narrowed the gap to nine points, with United having played an extra game. Victory against City, also not out of the running, would be another strong signal of intent and add to the sense of optimism now to be found at Stamford Bridge.
"It's important we win to clarify our position in the table," Ancelotti said. "At the moment, our position is not so clear. After this game, it'll be clear what we're going to do in the Premier League."
That a shot at the title, however slim, is still a possibility for Chelsea is fairly remarkable. The misery of the mid part of the campaign, when Ancelotti came close to the sack, could soon be forgotten.
The Chelsea revival is well under way and is gaining momentum. And for John Terry, the dark days may soon be over.
- John Terry
- Manchester United
- Carlo Ancelotti