Terry and Ferdinand should take a rest from the Cup… for the good of the game
When Mark Hughes was asked whether he would have any concerns about playing Anton Ferdinand against Chelsea in the FA Cup, the QPR manager said 'no'.
If a similar question is put to his counterpart at Stamford Bridge, Andre-Villas Boas, this week, you can be sure the reply will be the same.
But it would be for the greater good if both Terry and Ferdinand missed the match on 28 January, to take the spark away from a highly flammable situation.
Coming together: John Terry and Anton Ferdinand are set to face each other again in the FA Cup
Both clubs could make early announcements that the pair will not play and bring a little calm to the build-up.
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Would it be a sign of weakness from the game and a blow to the idea of true competition, suggesting it is not robust enough to withstand this unwanted situation Possibly.
But it would be an equitable, grown-up solution to the real possibility of more problems that the sport could without.
The match comes four days before a scheduled court date in which the England captain faces a charge, which he denies, of committing a racially aggravated public order offence by abusing Ferdinand.
So, a face-off between the pair on the pitch is the last thing that is wanted by anyone who has the good of the game at heart.
If they play, the atmosphere at Loftus Road on 28 January will be febrile. Tribal loyalties are bound to be on show in unthinking, if not abusive, ways.
There will be intense scrutiny of everyone at the ground and Terry and Ferdinand will have to deal with almost intolerable pressure.
It could be a busy day for the referee, the police and the cameramen and we would be left to hope that the image of the game does not take another beating.
Give them a rest: Terry and Ferdinand should not play in the Cup game
After Luis Suarez left a stain on football with his racist behaviour and Liverpool made matters worse with their handling of the disciplinary action against him, it really could do without another damaging incident. Yet, even before Terry has a chance to clear his name, some of the worst elements of the game will be the inescapable talking points.
The Cup game will provide a forum for discussion (not to mention a potential platform for the ignorant) but the looming court case prevents any significant conclusions.
Terry insists he is innocent and so will see no reason to back out. He sees it as important, too, that he faces up to his detractors and the pressure, no matter how great.
Ferdinand, having been brave enough to pursue an allegation of racism, will also be reticent to withdraw in case it is seen as a sign of weakness.
But if they and their clubs could see the wider picture – admittedly, not the forte of most in the game – it would be a victory for common sense.
Harry has neutrals on side
There has been talk recently of Tottenham being the neutrals’ favourite for the title.
Quite how that is measured is unclear, but a case can certainly be made for backing them to make things interesting.
Manager Harry Redknapp’s accessible, common sense approach, their nice passing play and a spattering of British talent would all be factors.
There seems to be an element of nostalgia too, an attraction to the idea that a club who were last genuine contenders more than 50 years ago are enjoying a revival.
In the race: Harry Redknapp and Tottenham have mounted a credible title challenge
The idea that other clubs have bought their title shot while Spurs have earned theirs while operating on a shoestring budget is rubbish, of course.
But they bring a fresh face to the race and, along with City’s push for success, have shaken up the old order.
And that, rather than the difficult-to-prove idea that they are riding a wave of neutral goodwill, is what is most important.
Torres must show his class before it's too late
It must be now or never for Fernando Torres at Chelsea as the idea of the striker leaving gathers pace.
Time to shine: Fernando Torres has to show his class before it is too late for him at Chelsea
His display against Sunderland suggested a little form may be returning (he would have completely fluffed the volley that led to Frank Lampard’s goal a few weeks ago) and with Didier Drogba away at the African Cup of Nations, Torres has to take advantage.
This is a golden opportunity for the Spaniard, the like of which he may not see again at Stamford Bridge as patience wears thin.
Hammers give fans a good deal
Leaflets have been dropping on doormats in south London offering fans the chance to buy substantially discounted tickets to Championship games on the other side of the River Thames at West Ham.
But the matches on offer are not the usual duds – there is a London derby against Crystal Palace and a clash with promotion rivals Middlesbrough among them.
Good deal: West Ham have a number of ticket deals for fans
West Ham are not adopting a unique marketing ploy by fishing for fans in territories traditionally associated with rivals but it is not a great sign for a club hoping to move to and fill a much larger arena: the Olympic Stadium.