At 3.26 p.m. on Sunday, the very last remnants of football’s heart and soul were trampled into the turf.
The staged substitution of John Terry at Chelsea saw the match halted by mutual agreement so he could bask in the adulation of a packed Stamford Bridge one last time.
Everything – absolutely everything – that is wrong with football in the UK was summed up in that moment of crass self-indulgence.
The game we grew up with, of jumpers for goalposts and keepie-uppie, no longer exists.
In the Premier League – the self-appointed greatest league in the world – players are millionaires who are indulged and pampered.
What the talent wants, the talent gets, so when Terry decided an entire game should be halted to give due recognition to his own substitution – and we’re talking about a guy walking off a pitch for the last time and handing over a wee armband to his mate, not someone who has just revealed a cure for cancer or dementia, for crying out loud – no-one had the common sense, let alone the leadership, to suggest it wasn’t appropriate, and he could take a bow at full-time like every other club legend.
That opponents Sunderland were complicit in this narcissistic nonsense is to their eternal shame.
What on earth did their fans – proud Mackems, already hurting at being relegated – make of their team cravenly agreeing to this farce?
At 3.26 pm they saw their own team halt play to become by-standers in the John Terry Show.
He wanted the minutes played to match his shirt number before taking his bow. Utterly symbolic twaddle – it’s just as well he didn’t wear number two or he’d have gone before breaking sweat.
Having agreed to this side show, I’m surprised Chelsea didn’t emulate the Super Bowl and turn it into a major gig complete with Kanye West and a supporting roll call of Chelsea Pensioners.
They ought to have grabbed Abramovich’s credit card and super-sized the whole thing to match the self-centred Terry’s belief that, at 3.26p.m. he was bigger than the game.
They should have hired a light aircraft to write ‘’Goodbye JT’’ in the sky, while organising the ball boys to throw rose petals at his Adidas Predators. The fans should have been instructed to form a human chain to carry JT all the way to his front door, while holding mirrors aloft so he could bask in his own reflection.
The Queen should have been commanded to show up to carry out an instant investiture. Arise Sir JT.
And, to mark this momentous day, Sky Sports will, henceforth, refer to the final Sunday of the season as John Terry Day, and all games will kick-off at 3.26 p.m. Or maybe they should black out the screens at 3.26 in memory of the moment football lost its heart and soul.
The beautiful game is no longer beautiful.
And if Terry goes into management and is sacked, I hope the board stops the game in the 26th minute, and forms a guard of honour to hand him his P45.