Peter Taylor, the England Under-21 manager, last night paid tribute to Anton Ferdinand and Micah Richards for the way they handled themselves in the face of alleged racial abuse during the team's triumph in Germany on Tuesday, but hoped the experience would not prove valuable.
England won 2-0 in Leverkusen to qualify by 3-0 on aggregate for next summer's European Championship Under-21 finals, but their success was overshadowed when both players said they had been called "a monkey" by two of their opponents. The entire German squad has denied using any racial epithets.
Taylor said: "I would not want them to get used to hearing such things because that would mean it was prevalent. The way forward is to stop it. But they did very well to keep their heads in what was a tough game even before [the abuse]."
The Football Association will submit a formal complaint to Uefa, the European game's governing body, as soon as senior officials return from the full England international in Croatia. The German Football Association [DFB] has already launched an inquiry with Dieter Eilts, the coach, personally ringing each player. "We are taking the accusations very seriously and are investigating their veracity," said Harald Stenger, the DFB's press officer.
Uefa is awaiting the FA's response and reports from the referee and match delegate. Uefa could fine Germany if they are found guilty, dock the team points from future qualification campaigns or ban them from future tournaments.
Ferdinand believes he was abused by one player and Richards by a second player. The former is understood to have called Ferdinand "a donkey". When Ferdinand responded: "What did you call me?" the German player allegedly said: "Oh actually I meant monkey." Richards also said he was called "a monkey".
Taylor said: "I could tell something had happened by the way Anton and Micah reacted and I said to the fourth official at the time, 'I think something's been said there'."
Stenger said that the Under-21 coach Dieter Eilts questioned his team in phone calls and they had all denied the allegations.
One of the German team, the Werder Bremen striker Aaron Hunt, said there had been verbal sparring during the game but nothing remotely racist. "I did not use any racist terms whatsoever," Hunt said in a federation statement.
"Obviously, there were some fierce verbal exchanges, but that sort of thing happens in every match. I just spent a week with the Under-21 team and shared a room together with Kevin Prince Boateng. He's a black player. I hope that says it all."
Taylor's own future as coach is uncertain as Steve McClaren, the England manager, wants to bring in a full-time Under-21 manager, but Taylor is also committed to managing Crystal Palace. Nigel Reo-Coker, the Under-21 captain, said all the players wanted Taylor to remain in charge for the tournament, but he himself said: "I've no idea what's going to happen, but I hope we reach a decision soon for everyone's sake."
With no obvious candidate to take over, it would seem logical to retain Taylor until the finals, which are in the Netherlands in June. It has been suggested that much may depend on McClaren's own standing - the more successful Taylor is at Under-21 level the more he looks a candidate to be the senior coach.
England last won the competition in 1984 and whoever takes the squad to the Netherlands may be able to draw on players already making an impact at senior level, as the latter's competitive programme finishes with a European Championship qualifier in Estonia on 6 June. Wayne Rooney, having never played for the Under-21 side, is unlikely to be involved but Aaron Lennon could be.
By then Theo Walcott, who underlined his rich potential with the late strikes which secured England's progress, could also be back in the senior squad. But as the bandwagon for his upgrading moves back into gear it should be noted that his goals, while showing a finishing touch of the highest quality, were against tired opposition who were pushing players forward.Reuse content