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Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012

PREMIER REPORT

F.A. must make Terry stand down


LONDON — Sometime in the next three weeks the Football Association's power brokers will meet to decide whether John Terry should continue to captain England.

Christopher Davies

Terry's court case concerning an alleged racially aggravated public order offense involving Queens Park Rangers' Anton Ferdinand has been adjourned to July 9, eight days after Euro 2012 ends. Terry denies the charge.

Fabio Capello, who will leave his post after the finals, will want Terry leading the team in Ukraine and Poland. The Italian is a firm believer in the notion of being innocent until proven guilty, which is admirable, but should a man with a charge of racism hanging over his head lead out a multi-racial England team?

No, he should not, and I suspect I speak for the majority of football followers in a country that takes racism more seriously than most.

The F.A. had hoped the case would have been heard as scheduled this week so any decision concerning Terry's captaincy was effectively made by the court before the friendly against Holland on Feb 29.

Not guilty — Terry keeps the armband. Guilty — the inevitable loss of the captaincy and possibly his England career. Though Chelsea bans any fan found guilty of racism for life, Andre Villas-Boas has already said he will support Terry whatever the court's verdict.

Now the F.A., which has a zero tolerance attitude toward racism as seen with the eight-match ban handed to Liverpool's Luis Suarez, must make a decision about Terry, who has been a constant dilemma for Capello during his four years in charge.

Before the 2010 World Cup, the Chelsea captain was the subject of lurid tabloid stories about an alleged affair with the mother of former teammate Wayne Bridge's child. Initially stripped of the captaincy, Capello reinstated Terry who has been the subject of too many "misunderstandings" to remain a credible national captain.

My understanding is that the F.A. board is split on the matter but influential sponsors are unlikely to be comfortable with Terry leading the side. Stripping Terry of the captaincy may be seen as punishing an innocent man, but racism is a serious, sensitive issue and until all doubts are removed he should be stood down.

* * *

THE JOHN TERRY saga will be in the spotlight when Chelsea plays Manchester United on Sunday.

Will Anton Ferdinand's brother Rio shake Terry's hand?

The Football Association cancelled last week's pre-game ritual when Chelsea played Queens Park Rangers for legal and practical reasons, but there are no plans to do the same at Stamford Bridge. If Ferdinand senior does what his brother had refused to do, he will be seen as spineless rather than sporting.

The main concern for Sir Alex Ferguson is not a handshake but who will play in goal — David de Gea or Ben Amos?

De Gea's confidence has been dented by some high-profile errors, notably against Blackburn on New Year's Day, and the way opponents have targeted his physical vulnerability at corners.

Anders Lindegaard is injured and Amos, like de Gea 21, did well against Stoke last Tuesday in only his seventh appearance for United.

De Gea was dropped following his display against Blackburn and Ferguson must decide whether to show solidarity with de Gea or pick Amos for the biggest game of his career.

Manchester City's loss at Everton means City and United start the weekend on 54 points with Tottenham five behind them.

Ferguson will be ready to start his mind games if City's stuttering form continues — it went out of the League and F.A. Cups and have seen its lead cut to just goal difference.

United traditionally becomes stronger toward the business end of the season, and it would be another remarkable managerial achievement if Ferguson can steer a side without a decent goalkeeper, an injury-ravaged defense and a midfield so lacking in creativity that Paul Scholes came out of retirement, to a 20th title.

* * *

I WAS ENJOYING a meal in Dinings, my favorite Japanese restaurant in London, when Chiba, the manager, came over. He had heard me on talkSPORT that morning saying I hope Jose Mourinho does not come back to English football, as he wants to, next season.

"Why not? He's a winner and gives you guys plenty to write about."

True but the wrong type of copy. Mourinho is a serial sinner, a thug in manager's clothing who leaves a trail of trophies and disciplinary excesses in his wake at all his clubs. Some think it is a price worth paying, that winning is all that matters. Others have shown you can win with more style and dignity.

During his time at Chelsea, Mourinho was regularly punished for comments made to referees. Chelsea also had the worst disciplinary record for failing to control their players under the Special One.

He was fined £75,000 for his role in tapping up Ashley Cole, then of Arsenal. UEFA branded him "an enemy of football" after falsely accusing Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard of seeing referee Anders Frisk at halftime during a Champions league game.

I could fill a column with Mourinho's boorish behavior, the way he disrespects opponents, referees, authority and just about anyone, including his own players. That, Chiba, is why I hope Mourinho, a great coach admittedly but a man who wreaks havoc wherever he goes, stays away from our shores.

Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.


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