Chelsea backed down yesterday in the dispute over John Terry's red card against Tottenham in November and their compromise tactics look set to spare the Football Association the embarrassment of having to punish the England captain with another one-match ban - which means he will make his long-awaited comeback against Wigan on Saturday.
In a U-turn designed to impress the FA's disciplinary commission, Terry yesterday withdrew his request for a personal hearing on the improper-conduct charge that he was given following criticisms of the referee Graham Poll after the defeat to Spurs on 5 November. The Chelsea captain has now adopted a more complex legal position in which he will admit to the improper conduct charge but still deny that he "intended" to call Poll's integrity into question.
Crucially, it means that Terry has shown enough contrition to get away with a fine when he could have picked up another one-match suspension for the dismissal. The move means that the FA is not placed in the difficult position of having to ban the England captain, which would have been awkward to say the least, but can still be seen to give Terry some form of punishment.
The charge was laid against Terry after he accused Poll of giving him two separate and conflicting reasons for awarding a second yellow card against him in the 2-1 defeat to Tottenham at White Hart Lane. When Terry then requested a personal hearing to fight the charge it opened the possibility of the FA's compliance unit having to play the prosecutor against the man Steve McClaren picked as his new captain in August.
It also means that Terry will not have to attend Soho Square today as the accused; instead, Chelsea's legal team, led by the barrister Jim Sturman QC, have sent a written submission. The delicate distinction they are making is that while Terry has now accepted that his actions amounted, under FA rules, to "improper conduct", he will tell the commission that it was never his intention to question Poll's integrity.
After the match Terry said that Poll had told him on the pitch that the first yellow card was for barging Hossam Ghaly. He then claimed that Poll had changed his mind. Terry said: "After the game, he [Poll] then said to me it was for the fall when me and Ledley King fell so, you know, he's obviously had a look at it, or got people to look at it and decided that's probably the best option for him and it covers every angle for him."
The FA commission, which is legally independent from the governing body, will comprise three members of the governing body's disciplinary committee as well as one from the panel representing former players and referees. They will give their verdict on Terry, who has not played since 13 December, this afternoon. He is expected to receive a fine similar to the £10,000 penalty given to Arsène Wenger for improper conduct earlier in the season.
While Peter Kenyon was in China yesterday to launch Chelsea's latest move for the global marketing domination they seek - a Chinese language version of their website - the transfer saga involving Shaun Wright-Phillips continued. The England international has been lukewarm on a move to West Ham United, who have agreed a fee of around £9.5m but the club will put an improved offer to the player in the next few days.
Although Wright-Phillips would prefer a move to Tottenham or even Newcastle it seems unlikely that either side could, or would, pay the transfer fee or the player's salary that he commands at Chelsea. Judging by his comments in the aftermath of the draw with Fulham, Jose Mourinho is in no mood to release his players on cut-price loan deals that do other clubs a favour.
The Bolton defender Tal Ben Haim is the most likely addition to Chelsea's squad this month. Out of contract in the summer, the Israeli international is also admired by West Ham and Tottenham who are both seeking to buy centre-backs.
In the meantime, Spurs showed how highly they rate their England international winger Aaron Lennon when they awarded the 19-year-old his third contract - and effectively his third pay rise - in 18 months yesterday. The player already had three and a half years on his existing deal left to run, but in return for moving up the pay scale has committed himself for a further two years which will keep him contract until 2012.
The contract has been agreed despite Lennon struggling to regain the form that made him a late addition for the World Cup finals squad in May. He has had knee surgery since then and said yesterday that he was "settled" at Tottenham.Reuse content