QPR manager leaves John Terry handshake choice to Anton Ferdinand

 

Mark Hughes has instructed QPR's players to decide for themselves whether to shake John Terry's hand before tomorrow's clash with Chelsea at Loftus Road.

The Premier League confirmed in a statement released this afternoon that the pre-match ritual must take place, guaranteeing an uneasy build-up to the highly-charged west London derby.

It will be the first time that Anton Ferdinand and Terry, who has recovered from his ankle injury, will have met on a football pitch since the Chelsea captain's race trial in July.

Terry was found not guilty of using a racial slur against Ferdinand, following an incident in the corresponding fixture last October, but he remains the subject of a Football Association investigation over charges that he denies.

Ferdinand is expected to reject handshakes from Terry and Ashley Cole, who testified as a character witness for his England team-mate at the trial.

How many players will emulate Ferdinand in a display of solidarity within QPR's squad is unknown and Hughes indicated they will make their own decision.

"We've had a discussion with the players but that's between myself and them. We don't have to broadcast that," said the QPR manager.

"We'll have to wait and see (if Ferdinand shakes Terry's hand). Everybody has a mind of their own and will make a personal decision.

"It's unfortunate that they're in a situation where it's in the public domain. Anton is fine, there's no problem with him."

The rift between Ferdinand and Terry threatens to turn the handshake routine, introduced as part of the Football Association's Respect campaign, into a farce.

Should several QPR players also snub Terry or Cole, or both, it could prove embarrassing for the Premier League, who made their decision 24 hours before kick-off.

A Premier League statement read: "There has been dialogue between the Premier League, Queens Park Rangers and Chelsea in relation to tomorrow's match between the two clubs.

"All parties understand and acknowledge that the pre-match handshake will go ahead as part of the normal pre-match activity."

Striker Bobby Zamora is one member of the home dressing room who will accept Terry's hand before the game.

Zamora told The Sun: "I've known John Terry for years and he's a very good friend of mine.

"We grew up together and of course I'll shake his hand if he's playing. All this stuff happened a long time before I joined QPR."

Exasperated by the manner in which tomorrow's derby is being overshadowed by a pre-match obligation, Hughes hinted strongly at his own concern about the handshake.

"There's a lot of debate every time we have a game against Chelsea," he said.

"I've got my own views on the handshake and I raised those at Premier League level even before this season started. I don't want to go into that.

"I'm conscious of the fact that every time we play Chelsea the issue of the handshake clouds everybody's mind and the focus is taken away from a great Premier League game.

"It's not my decision to make, whether it happens. We're governed by the Premier League and if we're told it will go ahead, then we will do that."

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert was more forthcoming with his opinion today, calling for the handshake ritual to be abandoned.

"It's more trouble than it's worth. Shake hands after the game, but not before it," Lambert said.

"You are out to try to win a football match and I'm pretty sure you don't want to shake hands with someone you are going to go and compete against.

"Afterwards it's fine, that's a sign of respect and sportsmanship, fair play and all those sort of things. But before it, no, I wouldn't run with it."

QPR spent heavily during the transfer window but remain winless in their three Premier League games as the new arrivals continue to bed in.

"We've shown a steady improvement and I fully expect that to continue against Chelsea at the weekend," Hughes said.

PA

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