On an autumn afternoon in West London, Chelsea visited Loftus Road, Shepherds Bush, the home of their old West London rivals, QPR. The fierce rivalry was re-ignited months earlier when the Superhoops were promoted from the Championship to the top-flight for the first time since 1996, meaning that in addition to widely anticipated journeys across the country to visit fortresses such as Old Trafford, Anfield, Emirates and St James Park, the QPR fans were also guaranteed two games against the team they love to hate, Chelsea. Since their last meeting in the Premier League the two clubs’ fortunes could not have been further apart. Chelsea’s debts were wiped out in an instant by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and then they enjoyed their most successful period in their history by winning two league championships under the stewardship of the Special One plus regularly dining with the biggest names at European football’s top table. Meanwhile, QPR slipped as far down as the lowly third tier in English football. Tens year later and now they find themselves back on a level playing field as their neighbours.
The fixture between the two sides in October was always bound to be hostile, especially for Chelsea. How the Blues didn’t see this coming was quite remarkable. For instance, Juan Mata had not been given a full briefing beforehand and was so overwhelmed by the abuse he received, when taking corners, that the Spaniard swiftly passed on the responsibility elsewhere.
Meanwhile the England captain, John Terry, was getting more and more agitated as the game wore on. Before this game Terry’s misdemeanours had already ensured his regular vilification from opposing terraces. Even fans who do not have a particular dislike to Chelsea, do have a disdaining opinion of John Terry. A role model, he is not.
Towards the end of the said QPR match, Terry was involved in a tussle with Anton Ferdinand and decided to call him a ‘black ****’ in retort to something which Ferdinand originally had said to him. Terry has not denied saying this and it has been caught on video. As such, a date has been set with the Crown Prosecution Service in July. This was the earliest convenient date due to football commitments for all parties concerned between now until then, which is ridiculous in its own right. Isn’t ‘Arry on trial at Southwark Crown Court at the moment?
‘Jolly good’ crowed a few members of the media ‘for Terry can now go to the Euros in June but questions must be answered regarding the captaincy’. I beg your pardon but Terry should not be going anywhere. If Terry is with the England squad during the Euros, to quote Jason Roberts – ‘the atmosphere in the dressing room will be toxic’. Capello needs to make a bold decision and that is to drop Terry from England duty immediately, let alone question the captaincy. Incidentally, the FA have confirmed that John Terry is to be stripped of the captaincy. Reading John Terry and England captain aloud in the same breath makes me cringe. He is a complete disgrace. Gone are the days when the captaincy actually meant something. A role model. Actually, let me rephrase that – the role model. To be England captain was the pinnacle for an English footballer or for any sportsperson for that matter. How can the other players and in particular, the youngsters, look up to a senior player whose morals have continuously been called into question during the last decade.
Stripping him of the captaincy is not enough. The camaraderie within the England camp would improve dramatically with Terry’s exclusion. This action may even aid the squad during the Euros. This is the first time that I can remember that there is no hype surrounding England at a major tournament simply because they have flattered to deceive on so many occasions. The Golden Generation – remember them? Yes, the ones with the successive quarter-final knockouts to their names. Golden indeed. I digress. OK, so there may not be many readily available replacements for Terry. Looking at the obvious candidates of Gary Cahill, Phil Jaglielka and Michael Dawson, the latter two have been injured most of the season whilst Caldwell has just jumped the rudderless Bolton ship for the Russian riches at Chelsea. Ledley King is a non-starter as in accordance to Spurs fans’ ‘Oh Ledley, Ledley, he’s only got one knee, he’s better than John Terry, Oh Ledley, Ledley.’ So not many options there.
Terry, on paper, is still probably one of the best English centre backs but his inclusion will restrict synergy in the squad. A cohesive group, on the other hand, makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. If someone can translate that into Italian for Mr Fabio, I would be eternally grateful.
Putting the England captaincy and squad debate to one side, there’s another discussion. If found guilty, what punishment should he serve? Due to the nature of the charge (a racially aggravated public order offence) the highest punishment is a maximum fine of £2,500.
The FA set a precedent in the Suarez case and it would therefore be hypocritical of them if Terry is not adequately punished. Luis Suarez was banned for eight games plus he incurred a £40,000 fine in a case, which admittedly, did have considerable grey area. Suarez admitted that he said ‘negro’, once. There is no grey area with regards to that specific point. However there were mitigating factors. Suarez is South American and his culture is totally different to the people of Britain, though this is does not excuse his actions. But the FA arrived to their conclusion that Suarez continuously racially abused Patrice Evra through subjective factors such as probability and reliability of witnesses. Looking at John Terry’s case, what feasible defence could he have? A man brought up in East London cannot argue that from a cultural perspective it is perfectly reasonable to call someone a ‘black ****’ in retort to something originally said to him.
What is clear is that there is sufficient evidence for Terry to be charged. On the assumption that Terry will be found guilty, the FA must then impose a far greater punishment than they did to Suarez. A criminal record will mean that he can no longer represent his country but as he approaches his 32nd birthday that punishment will not suffice.
Capello must take action now. Drop Terry from England duties, for the good of the team, the squad and the country.