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Terry marshals his defence as racism case heads to court

February trial date as footballer vows to 'fight tooth and nail' to prove his innocence

The England football captain John Terry will appear in court to face criminal charges over allegations that he racially abused an opposing player during a Premier League game.

In camera footage not originally broadcast, Terry appeared to use obscene and racially abusive language to Anton Ferdinand, the brother of his England colleague Rio, during the match in October. Terry, who is captain of Chelsea, will appear at West London Magistrates' Court on 1 February next year, where he will face a maximum fine of £2,500.

Alison Saunders, Chief Crown Prosecutor for London, said: "I have today advised the Metropolitan Police Service that John Terry should be prosecuted for a racially aggravated public order offence following comments allegedly made during a Premier League football match between Queen's Park Rangers and Chelsea on 23 October 2011.

"After careful consideration of all the evidence I am satisfied there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to prosecute this case."

The defender said he was "disappointed" and vowed to clear his name. "I have never aimed a racist remark at anyone and count people from all races and creeds among my closest friends," he said in a statement. "I will fight tooth and nail to prove my innocence. I have campaigned against racism and believe there is no place for it in society."

Terry has admitted shouting the abusive phrase in question, but in the footage, his preceding words are obscured as fellow Chelsea player Ashley Cole walks past the camera. Terry maintains he was trying to explain to Anton Ferdinand that he hadn't called him such a thing in an earlier exchange.

At the time Terry said: "I'm disappointed that people have leapt to the wrong conclusions about the context of what I was seen to be saying to Anton Ferdinand. I would never say such a thing, and I'm saddened that people would think so. I thought Anton was accusing me of using a racist slur against him. I responded aggressively that I never used that," he said.

The case is believed to be the first time that an England football captain has appeared before a domestic court facing criminal charges.