John Terry enters a new world, in more ways than one, beside the southbound carriageway of the M6 tonight.
Bescot Stadium is compact and welcoming, but hardly comparable to some of the shrines of the game, to which he has become accustomed down the years.
Walsall are a brilliantly managed club, which deserves the windfall of a League Cup tie against Chelsea, yet are hardly opposition to set the pulses racing.
It is here that Terry must begin to prove what many in the game have long suspected, that he is a manager in waiting.
Leadership is something that can be developed, but it must be a primary instinct. Terry’s personality is polarising, but not even his most strident critic can deny his influence on those around him.
Dressing rooms can be oppressive places. The humour is acidic and any weakness is seized upon. They breed a certain type of authority figure, self-reliant and instinctively resilient.
Terry’s achievement in playing every minute of Chelsea’s championship season testifies to his durability, given well-documented doubts harboured by previous managers like Rafa Benitez.
It was significant that Jose Mourinho should be so effusive about him during the fallout from last Saturday’s BT Sport live game at Stamford Bridge.
He paused amidst the rancour and controversy to pay pointed homage to “my man.“ He spoke about caring for Terry “as a person, as a player.”
If he is serious about establishing a dynasty at Chelsea, Mourinho may see the advantages of allowing Terry to make a transition to his coaching staff at the end of the season.
Terry is already taking his coaching badges, and is the embodiment of the siege mentality which will be even more pronounced in the weeks and months to come.
Chelsea’s unhappiness with the three match ban imposed on Diego Costa, following the withdrawal of Gabriel Paulista’s sending off at Stamford Bridge, runs deep.
It is likely to set the tone for a season in which Terry will be obliged to adapt and improve.
He is 35 in December, is vulnerable to the quickest strikers, but still reads the game superbly. His appearances will inevitably be rationed.
His greatest long term value will be his presence in the dressing room, and his totemic status on the training ground.
He is known as the last product of Chelsea’s Academy to forge a career as a first team regular. His role now is to make that status obsolete, by teaching others.
His responsibility to a young, relatively inexperienced team tonight will offer a glimpse into his future.