The scene at the end was the perfect cliché of the never-say-die, heroic captain. One point in the bag and another seemingly made, John Terry sauntered towards the band of Blues, peeled off his shirt and waded bare-chested over the advertising hoardings to hand his Chelsea jersey to one of his disciples. As he walked away, he banged his fist on his heart.

In Planet Terry, the vignette represented how fond he is of a performance that reeks of his own determination to tackle adversity head on. But the problem with Planet Terry is that there is no place for the kind of subtlety that would better suit his current circumstances. As Liverpool discovered with their T-shirt idea, the rest of the world does not always appreciate bravado in times of controversy.

Mind you, keeping his head down has never been part of his approach during an eventful 13-year career. And besides, do the boos hurt? Do the chants cut deep? Does the microscope burn? It has never appeared that way, and few players are as efficient at erecting a force field that such stuff bounces off. What wounds John Terry is losing, conceding goals, straining to be half the player he was in his pomp.

Brickbats have seldom seemed to bother him half as much as his detractors would like. And there were many, here at White Hart Lane, many and varied.

Not for the first time Terry found himself under special scrutiny, with his on-pitch performance analysed for signs of any stress emanating from the unnattractive headlines he currently commands following the CPS announcement that he will stand trial for alleged racist abuse.

From the moment he emerged into the spotlight he did what he always does, presenting a devil-may-care attitude. He evidently wants the world to know that whatever happens outside the pitch stays on the other side of the white line and so he sprinted towards the Park Lane, puffed his chest out, patted his badge and saluted the Chelsea contingent. Of course, Terry was the subject of some toxic hostility. But he gave the unmistakable impression that his worst moment came when he was exposed for footballing, rather than any other, limitations.

Eight minutes into this compelling encounter he heard nothing but white noise. Terry was caught dawdling as Tottenham broke down the left. Emmanuel Adebayor was his man. Terry was in front of him. Yet as Gareth Bale's cross skidded over, Chelsea's captain slowed up just as Adebayor anticipated keenly. The difference in sharpness between the two men helped to give Spurs the lead.

Tellingly he recovered from that to put in the kind of performance that had his manager purring and reflecting how, perversely, Terry has increased his levels since "the incident". His leadership was evident as he took charge of a reshuffled defence. Early in the second half his yen for goals in circumstances such as this rose again as he thumped a header on target.

In stoppage time he blocked what would have been an Adebayor match-winner. The scale of insults aimed at him fluctuated during the game from the kind of ordinary rudeness he might expect every week, via observations about his family's misdemeanours to some inevitable insinuations concerning his upcoming court appearance. The idea of arming stewards with headcams to guard against the most unacceptable of behaviour in the stands was not entirely successful. But as an idea it makes one wonder whether some bright spark could come up with a tiny device that footballers themselves could wear, armband-cam, for example, which might clarify instances of abuse on the pitch for all to see.

The visiting support reacted to the Terry baiting with an array of supportive songs. Then they changed tack and decided to pick at Tottenham, pointing out in a none too complimentary way: "You stupid bastards, you burn your own town."

But it was a measure of how Chelsea's players responded that the Terry-ometer soon quietened down. Once his team drew level through Daniel Sturridge, both sections of the crowd felt compelled to acknowledge that a football match broke out. Terry has plenty of previous when it comes to getting on with the job while extra-curricular shenanigans shadow his every move. If anything, history shows he uses moments of adversity as fuel to his fire.

There were match-winning performances for Chelsea after revelations about his liaison with Wayne Bridge's former girlfriend, and after his father made tabloid headlines for selling cocaine in an Essex bar. There was a goal for his country after he missed a penalty in the Champions League final. There was a composed defensive performance and clean sheet after he was stripped of the England captaincy.

Not that it always works. A couple of months ago against Arsenal, in his first appearance after the allegations of racism against Anton Ferdinand were put under investigation, he ended up floored, as a calamitous mistake paved the way for a humiliating defeat.

And that is what appears to stick in his craw more than the worst from any loudmouth.