The Football Association was under growing pressure last night to review John Terry's position as captain of England after his trial over allegations of racial abuse was put back until after this summer's European Championship.
Jason Roberts, the Reading striker and a prominent campaigner against racism in football, said Terry should not be picked and claimed that if the Chelsea defender remains part of the squad, it will create a "toxic" atmosphere in the dressing room.
Terry's lawyers yesterday entered a plea of not guilty at a hearing at Westminster magistrates' court. The judge, Howard Riddle, initially wanted to hold the trial next month but was persuaded it would not be practical during the season and so set a date of 9 July – a week after the final of Euro 2012.
Since Terry was charged in December, the England manager, Fabio Capello, has maintained he would view the player as "innocent until proven guilty", a stance the FA is minded to support their manager in. The FA made no comment yesterday. England's next game is against the Netherlands on 29 February.
Roberts, who joined Reading in the transfer window, said on Twitter: "I do not believe the England captain should go to the Euros." He later added: "The dressing room at the Euros will be toxic unless the correct decision is made. In many workplaces an allegation of certain behaviour is an immediate suspension."
Roberts was a leading critic of Liverpool over the club's reaction to Luis Suarez's FA ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra. As the Terry case remains open, there is a reluctance for bodies such as Kick It Out to say anything publicly but the issue will hang over the FA up to the tournament – if Terry is part of the squad – and will provide the sternest test of David Bernstein's chairmanship of the governing body. The FA's independent inquiry into events involving Terry and Anton Ferdinand during Chelsea's game at Queen's Park Rangers in October remains suspended while the case is ongoing.
Piara Powar, the head of Fare, European football's anti-racism group, said; "The seriousness of the allegations means that he can't led the nation. So the FA must do the right thing." Damian Collins, a Conservative MP and influential member of the Culture, Media and Sport Select committee, said: "John Terry should stand aside as captain until the case is resolved and any doubt either way removed."
While the decision may yet be taken out of his hands, for Capello the concern will be the reaction within the squad to Terry's involvement, especially if Rio Ferdinand is chosen. Terry and the older Ferdinand are likely to be in opposition on Sunday when Chelsea face Manchester United, where the pre-match handshake will again be the focus of attention. Ferdinand has made no public comment on the case. He missed England's last two games, friendlies against Spain and Sweden in November, through injury.
Terry is accused of making racially abusive comments aimed at Anton Ferdinand during the Premier League match against QPR. If found guilty in a trial that is expected to last a week, he faces a maximum fine of £2,500.
Terry's lawyers made a statement on behalf of their client after yesterday's hearing, saying: "Mr Terry looks forward to the opportunity to clear his name. Mr Terry has consistently and resolutely maintained that his well-publicised remarks were made in the belief that he was being accused of racist abuse by Mr Ferdinand.
"Mr Terry was shocked and disgusted by that accusation at the time. Mr Terry denies making any racist statement and will establish in court that he is not guilty of any such offence. Mr Terry has never racially abused another player in his entire career."
Terry lost the England captaincy in the run-up to the 2010 World Cup in the wake of an alleged sex scandal. He was replaced by Rio Ferdinand.
Euro 2012 run-up: England's schedule
England's games heading into Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine:
29 Feb Netherlands (h)
26 May Norway (a)
2 June Belgium (h)
11 June France (n, Euros)
15 June Sweden (n, Euros)
19 June Ukraine (n, Euros)
23/24 June Possible Euro q-final
27/28 June Possible Euro semi-final
1 July Possible Euro final