LONDON – The best that could happen to John Terry Saturday is that Chelsea beats Blackburn and he is injured. Not badly, just a hamstring strain perhaps.
That way Fabio Capello and the Football Association would not have to make the decision whether to include the England captain in the squad, which the Italian announces Sunday, for the forthcoming friendlies against Spain and Sweden.
Investigations by the F.A. and police into allegations Terry racially abused Anton Ferdinand of Queens Park Rangers are ongoing.
It is two weeks since the match in question and there has been a steady drip-drip of “quotes” from insiders, sources, friends and just about anyone apparently “close” to Terry or Ferdinand.
The longer the inquiries go on, the story, as we say in the business, will have legs.
But while the dragging of official heels can be a frustration, on this occasion it is only correct that the relevant authorities take their time with investigations as a man’s reputation and livelihood are at stake, not to mention millions of pounds of potential earnings and sponsorship.
It is possibly the most significant investigation the F.A. has ever undertaken.
The F.A. and Crown Prosecution Service, which review cases submitted by the police for prosecution, must have strong legal evidence before any person is charged. CPS guidelines are that there must be enough evidence to provide a “realistic prospect of conviction.”
In the meantime, Terry should be taken out of the firing line. That does not pre-suppose guilt; simply that his presence in the squad would dominate the visit of the world champions in a negative manner, while inevitably non-Chelsea supporting fans at Wembley next Saturday would boo (and possibly worse) the England captain.
Some of the other England players would no doubt feel uncomfortable under the circumstances.
Terry would consider any enforced omission of an innocent player unfair, and whichever decision Capello and the F.A. make could reasonably be argued against, though in most workplaces anyone under the type of investigation the Chelsea defender is would be suspended pending the outcome.
Capello has already stripped — and reinstated — Terry of the captaincy for off-field allegations of his private life. It makes more sense to leave Terry out of the upcoming games than including him in the squad.
It must be repeated Terry is innocent until proven guilty, though in the new age of social networking public opinion can be formed on the basis of tweets and YouTube.
This is an enormously complex case because Terry admits using the words “black -” but, he insists, not in a racist sense, only to deny having said them.
It is the context in which Terry said them, he claims, that makes them non-racist. Terry maintains he said: “Oi, Anton, do you think I called you a black -?”
For his part, Ferdinand says he made no such accusation, so therefore Terry was denying an allegation that had not been made.
The F.A. and police may ask themselves whether any denial of racism would normally include the alleged racist words.
The usual reaction of anyone mistakenly accused of racism would be something along the lines of: “I did not make any racist comments” or “I never said anything” or possibly “What I said was this . . . ” with a verification of what was actually said.
Is it common practice to repeat racist words in the denial of racism?
Sky Sports has provided the F.A. and police with all their tapes of the match, which will enable them to ascertain the distance between Terry and Ferdinand at the time of the incident in the 85th minute.
Also, which other players could have been in earshot of anything said. Lip reading can be used in a court of law, but more than anything a claim of racism needs a witness to substantiate the accusation.
The most remarkable support for Terry came from former QPR winger Trevor Sinclair, who is black. Sinclair said: “I was with John Terry in the summer and I couldn’t honestly imagine a more chilled-out guy when it comes to different cultures.
“If he’s said something that’s not accepted, it wouldn’t be racist. It would be maybe to try and upset the opposition. He uses everything he can to try and win every game for his club.”
Sinclair was not misquoted, he was on the radio and is astonishingly condoning racism, saying a racist remark is not racist if it is used to upset the opposition and win the game for your club.
How can racism possibly be accepted in any form?
NO OTHER Premier or Football League manager will ever achieve the landmark Sir Alex Ferguson celebrates Sunday when he completes 25 years in charge of Manchester United.
In an era of chairman with hair-triggers, when six games without a win constitutes a crisis, Ferguson’s longevity and success will not be repeated. They say “never say never,” but Fergie is the exception to this rule.
The average managerial tenure is 1.33 years in League 2, 1.67 years in League 1, less than a year in the Championship and 2.07 years in the Premier League.
Ferguson’s greatest strengths are being able to move with the times, inspiring almost blind loyalty among his players, retaining the drive to be first at the training ground with his 70th birthday approaching, and having the coldest of compassions when it comes to off-loading superstars if he believes it is in the best interest of the club.
Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.