|John Terry has announced his international retirement. Photograph: Tom Jenkins|
John Terry has announced that he has ended his career as an England footballer – and he departed with a rebuke for the Football Association, who he accused of making his position as an international player untenable.
The 31-year-old Chelsea captain, who won 78 caps for his country, is to go before an independent four-man commission on Monday, which was convened under the auspices of the FA, to defend himself against a charge of using racially abusive language towards Anton Ferdinand, the Queens Park Rangers defender.Terry defended himself successfully against a criminal charge at Westminster magistrates court in July related to the same flashpoint: that he allegedly racially abused Ferdinand in the Premier League fixture between QPR and Chelsea at Loftus Road on 23 October last year.
He was cleared by the chief magistrate, Howard Riddle, because there was not the required weight of evidence to support a conviction – proven beyond reasonable doubt. But the FA, having started an investigation which was halted when the police and the Crown Prosecution Service began their inquiries, reopened their case and, on 27 July, brought its charge, much to Terry's dismay.
Terry said that he was making his statement on Sunday "in advance of the hearing of the FA disciplinary charge because I feel the FA, in pursuing charges against me where I have already been cleared in a court of law, have made my position with the national team untenable".
Terry had been supported by the England manager, Roy Hodgson, who took him to the European Championship in June, while the court trial hung over him. As recently as last month, Hodgson expressed the hope that the independent commission would clear Terry and what has been an unedifying and destructive affair could finally approach closure.
"I'm hoping, and I make no secret of it, that the case will take its course and John, hopefully, will be freed as he was freed in a court of law and will carry on playing for England," Hodgson said. "That's my hope. What will happen, I have no idea. I thought John did well in the Euros and I'd like to keep using him but this is a case which is way out of my hands. John understands that."
Terry called Hodgson before he issued his retirement statement to offer him forewarning and thank him for standing by him. The respect between the pair is clear. There was the sense that nothing could retain the capacity to shock after an 11-month saga that has taken many turns, including Terry being stripped of the England captaincy by the FA and Fabio Capello resigning his post as the manager in protest, but the timing of the player's statement, on the eve of his hearing, was surprising.
Terry's legal advisers are aware the FA requires a lower burden of proof to obtain a guilty verdict. Its commissions judge on what they call the "balance of probability", as opposed to "beyond reasonable doubt" in criminal trials.
Terry's lawyers are also mindful that the FA's success rate in such matters is high, largely because the governing body does not bring charges if it feels that it does not have a winnable case. It is not duty-bound to bring charges, as the police may be.
Terry's international retirement was seen by some as a pre-emptive decision.
The FA made no comment on Sunday night, as it opted to take stock of Terry's statement. The fact that the commission, chaired by an independent QC, is poised to begin examining the evidence, complicated the FA's position.
Terry's words were left to speak for themselves. "Representing and captaining my country is what I dreamed of as a boy and it has been a truly great honour," he said. "I have always given my all and it breaks my heart to make this decision. I want to wish Roy [Hodgson] and the team every success for the future.
"I would like to thank the England managers who have selected me for my 78 caps. I have had great pleasure in sharing that honour with all the players that I've played with. I would like to thank them, the fans and my family for their support and encouragement during my international career. I now look forward to playing for Chelsea FC, and challenging for domestic and European honours."
Chelsea said Terry's decision had been "personal and difficult".