John Terry will lead Aston Villa out at Wembley on Saturday against Fulham in the Championship Play-Off Final.
The 37-year-old skipper will hope to lead the former European champions back to the Premier League at his first attempt.
It’s still a rather strange sight to see the ex-Chelsea legend in the claret and blue of the West Midlands outfit. The former England captain was persuaded to sign for Villa by Steve Bruce on a golf course in the Algarve last summer.
And Terry has been a bit of a revelation at Villa Park, too. Not just for his performances, but how he has led the club since joining.
Villa had been a rabble for a number of years. A disinterested owner and a toxic dressing room led to their Premier League relegation. And a 13th-place finish in their opening Championship season had fans baying for Bruce’s blood.
But Terry’s leadership and organisational skills have helped Bruce slowly turn the Villa tanker around. There had been slight disappointment at not gaining automatic promotion.
However, most connected with the club felt the play-offs were probably the most likely route back to the promised land of top-flight football.
However, what Terry and Villa possess over their London rivals is experience – and plenty of it. In Terry, the Birmingham giants have a natural born winner. The Barking-born ace has won everything domestically, plus the Champions League and Europa League trophies to boot.
If some thought he was simply going to Villa for a late-career pay-off, they will have been surprised by his quality. He was one of the outstanding defenders in the Championship and made the end-of-season team of the year, too.
For all his natural defensive talents and aerial ability, one worry will be his lack of pace. And that could get exposed by the Fulham offensive live.
Slavisa Jokanovic’s side pass and move brilliantly and have pace in abundance. If Villa open up and go at Fulham, the likes of Ryan Sessegnon and Aboubakar Kamara could tear Terry and co. apart.
But in a tight, compact, and disciplined performance, Villa’s experience could make the difference. And in a cup final with everything at stake, at this level, you’d only want one man leading your side out.
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