JOHN TERRY is making a name for himself in the Chelsea backfour. So much so that the Blues fans have been chanting "Terry for England" during theirmatches of late.
The Chelsea fans have picked Terry as their Player of The Year for 2001ahead of several established names like Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Marcel Desailly and Mark Bosnich.
At 21, he is the second youngest player to have been given the accoladeby the Chelsea fans after the legendary Ray Wilkins won it at the age of19 in 1976.
And the England Under-21 skipper knows it is only a matter of time before England coach Sven Erikkson pens his name down for one of the several friendlies that have been lined up for England's campaign towards the World Cup.
But Terry is not going to lose any sleep if he is not picked. Not when he has the chance to lead the England Under-21 team for the European Championship.
"Obviously playing in the World Cup is something every player dreams of. It is the tournament for any footballer and why should it be different for me. But the final decision lies with the manager," said Terry when met byMailsport at the Chelsea training ground in Harlington.
"As for now, all I aim to do is play well for Chelsea and play a big part in the Under-21 team."
Having had the distinction of playing under two Italian managers,Gianluca Vialli and Claudio Ranieri, and David Platt - who spent aconsiderable amount of his career in Italy - Terry said he has not changed his style of play.
"Though the three of them have all an Italian flair but that has not changed my game one bit. I am English through and through and have not developed any Italian characteristics," said Terry.
Both friends and foes alike have given Terry the hardman tag for his uncompromising tackles on the pitch. But unlike his predecessors, Chopper Harris and Vinny Jones, who were nicknamed "Chopper" and "Psycho" respectively, Terrry prefers to be called"JT".
Having played alongside players like Graeme Le Saux, Gianfranco Zola,Desailly and Frank Leboeuf has helped Terry develop as a world-class central defender.
"Le Saux helps me on the pitch by constantly talking to me. As for Zola,he helped me a lot when I was a youngster and still does the same. We do one-to-one tackles after training and though I am slightly better attacking him, it's still not enough. He is truly world class."
It is Desailly that Terry speaks of with great respect. For the FrenchWorld Cup medal winner has been displaced by his prodigy, Terry, in Chelsea.
"It's without doubt that he is the best defender in the world. To be given an opportunity to play alongside him has helped my game mature."said Terry.
"But he has been unlucky with injuries of late and that has allowed Gallas (William) to team up with me in the heart of defence. Sometimes. I look at the situation and feel awkward for Desailly who now has fight for a place against someone who looked upon him with admiration."
Terry has the distinction of marking three of the great names in theEnglish Premier League - Thierry Henry, Ruud van Nielstroy and MichaelOwen. Of the trio, Terry said the most difficult player to mark has to be Henry.
"He is very skilful and is able to pressure a defender in making mistakes. He has this uncanny appearance of being lazy but when he is onsong, it spells nightmare for the defenders," said Terry.
"Owen has speed and given half a yard, would leave defenders trailing in his wake."
Despite the lucrative fees available should he ply his trade in Europe,Terry has no plans to move out of Stamford Bridge.
"I have been with Chelsea since I was 14 and would like to stay as longas possible," he said.
"You don't get too many one-club players these days but I definitelywant to stay with Chelsea for the rest of my career."
And Malaysian fans of Chelsea may well get an opportunity to see the newkid on the block for he is considering coming to our shores, courtesy of Emirates Air.
Name: John Terry
Date of birth: Dec 7, 1980
Place of birth: Barking, England
Height: 6ft 1in. Weight: 181lb
Chelsea debut: Against Oldham Athletic FA Cup (3rd rd, Jan 3, 1999).
First Chelsea goal: Against Gillingham FA Cup 6th rd, Feb 19, 2000).
Also played for: England Under-21 (nine caps - skipper).