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Have Aston Villa astutely signed John Terry, living legend? Or ancient fossil?

Tuesday 4th July 2017
Aston Villa officially announced John Terry's signing on Monday. Have the Claret and Blue astutely bought a living legend or wastefully invested in an ancient fossil?

A football squad can be built in infinitely interesting, varied ways. There are those who prefer younger squads, vivacious in their energy, willing to run and run run, playing two or three games a week for the entire season. Some prefer smaller squads, prioritising cohesion of style and player type but running the risk two or three serious injuries can derail a campaign. Still others would have an older, more experienced squad, adding players for their off-field influence as much as their on-pitch ability.

No method is definitively right or wrong. Each avenue has its vices and virtues. In fact, a strategy's success is most often not achieved via the strategy itself, but its application. There is no problem in signing ageing players, for example, to bring an element of experience, nous, and know-how, if they are the right players. The issue derives from uncertainty they can replicate their younger selves' performance level.

Exactly that question faces Aston Villa and Steve Bruce after they confirmed John Terry's free agent signing on Monday morning. Earlier in the summer, the former Chelsea defender announced his exit from the club at which he has plied his trade since his senior debut in 1998, but has been linked with a possible, late-career swansong for some time. It was thought there was significant competition for his signature. Yet, after a drawn-out process, the Villans were victorious.
On its face, Terry's signing seems substantial for the Midland club. A Premier and Champions League winner, he has ranked among the most established, accomplished defenders in world football for over a decade. His game does not rely on traits likely to be lost to advancing age. Instead, it is built on excellent positional sense, reading danger, communication, and leadership.

Terry has also spent his career playing at a level far above the Championship. He retains the physical presence to deal with the onslaught English football's lower reaches love to offer. Nor will he be exposed against players possessing sharper quality in the final third, as he might had he stayed at Chelsea.

But could his ever-increasing age and its commensurate deterioration undermine the success Villa hopes to enjoy with Terry at the heart of its defence? We have seen older players who have excelled at the highest possible level drop down only to struggle as they lose that first step and physical element. Rio Ferdinand at Queens Park Rangers. Kevin Davies, who dropped all the way to League 1 with Preston North End. Many choose not to test themselves at all, perhaps in the knowledge they can no longer handle top tier football's demands. Such often turn to MLS for their last payday before retirement.

It is easy to see why Villa have signed the former Blues captain. He is an experienced, accomplished player who could anchor the Villa defence with great solidarity and resilience. He could also fail to play at the pace necessary to succeed and find himself exposed by the more mobile strikers of the Championship, his legs no longer capable of handling professional football's athletic challenges. It is an addition that could go either way; astute or wasted. John Terry may prove himself a living legend or an ancient fossil. Only time will tell.
Andrew Dowdeswell

A sport obsessed 20 something who just really wants Arsenal to finally win the league. Please Wenger, what the hell happened to you?!


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