Early Doors

JT injury could be blessing for FA

The Football Association must have been caught in a bit of a bind these past few days.

Though keen for John Terry to return from an ankle injury in time to face Ukraine in an important World Cup qualifier Tuesday - a hope that ultimately proved redundant when he was ruled out on Sunday evening - there must have be a significant number of suits at Wembley HQ secretly hoping he would be out of action for another week.

Because on Saturday, Chelsea return to Loftus Road for the first time since the disputed exchange of words between Terry and Anton Ferdinand that has provided the background noise to English football for nearly a year now.

Today's papers have clearly all been briefed that Terry is determined to be fit and face Ferdinand for the first time since the incident that has cast a shadow over Terry's career and may yet permanently block out his international aspirations. Or, as The Sun puts it, 'JT won't be Anton decked: he hopes to face Ferd'.

Early Doors cannot be alone in thinking it would be best for all concerned if Terry's ankle problem was prolonged for just a few extra days.

Otherwise that familiar circus starts again. There will be intense debate and anticipation ahead of the pre-match handshakes, which were cancelled in April for QPR's visit to Chelsea as a result of legal concerns ahead of Terry's trial for racially abusing Ferdinand, depriving us of another potentially unedifying yet deeply watchable spectacle after Wayne Bridge snubbed Terry and Luis Suarez ignored the outstretched palm of Patrice Evra.

Already there is speculation that Ferdinand will not only snub Terry, but also Ashley Cole who gave evidence on behalf of his Chelsea team-mate in the trial that saw Terry found not guilty of a racially aggravated public order offence.

There will also probably be some distasteful chants from the Chelsea fans, who have taken a song telling Anton Ferdinand 'we know what you are' and spun the melody into a celebration of their status as champions of Europe.

QPR fans still aggrieved at the events of last October are unlikely to hold back either, and as such the adjective 'poisonous' could have been tailor-made for the atmosphere that awaits us at Loftus Road should Terry indeed play in the London derby at the weekend.

What else could be expected following a court case that featured the choice phrases "your mum's a slag" and "loves Scouse c**k" as well as a barrage of swearing that would put Malcolm Tucker giving a public reading of Roger's Profanisaurus to shame?

The timing of Saturday's fixture is all the more unfortunate given the FA is currently in the process of investigating Terry again. Though cleared in court, the burden of proof at Wembley is less and given the FA rules against defendants 99.6 per cent of the time, Terry knows the odds are stacked against him in a battle which will come to define his career.

The FA needs the time and space to conduct a thorough enquiry, without the sideshow of another handshake row or an eruption of unsophisticated malevolence on Saturday. Dealing with the matter of whether a player - a former England captain no less - has called a fellow professional a "f****** black c*** - demands the greatest of attention.

And though England manager Roy Hodgson foolishly said he hopes Terry gets off and that only an "enormous" ban would prevent him from picking the Chelsea captain, there must be some doubt over whether, if the FA does rule against him, he can be considered a fit person to represent a country that, amongst its more enlightened inhabitants, considers its multiculturalism a badge of honour.

Just weeks after a nation appeared to take great pride in a night when the diverse faces of Greg Rutherford, Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah all took gold at the Olympic Stadium, what message would it send if a player found guilty of racial abuse by the FA was permitted to pull on the shirt?

Still, that is still very much an 'if', and such debates can rest until the FA has concluded its work in a satisfactory and comprehensive manner and delivered a judgement.

Until that point, we can probably do without another sideshow of vitriol and recrimination.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Obviously it's never nice, but we'll see when we return to work on Wednesday. When I join up with the national team I concentrate uniquely on that and we'll see about my personal ­situation as soon as I go back." - He hasn't even played a game for Tottenham but already Hugo Lloris appears to be unsettled following those claims from Andre Villas-Boas that, in the short term at least, Brad Friedel will remain his number one goalkeeper.

FOREIGN VIEW: France will look to the rejuvenated Abou Diaby to provide more inspiration when they host Belarus in their second World Cup Group I qualifier on Tuesday. The midfielder missed more than a season of international football through injury and his comeback performance against Finland on Friday in which he scored the game's only goal showed his value. "I hope he will go on like that for a long time because he is essential to the team," said fellow midfielder Rio Mavuba.

COMING UP: Er, not a lot in the football scheme of things, though we do have the latest blog from Jan Molby at lunch. To be honest, today's big event is the US Open final between Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, with both men expected on court at 9pm. Don't miss it.

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