Anton Ferdinand has spent the last eight days at the centre of one of English football's most all-consuming controversies but Neil Warnock said yesterday that it had not affected the performances of the defender, whose Queens Park Rangers team went down 3-1 to Tottenham Hotspur yesterday.
The QPR manager said he had no hesitation putting Ferdinand in his team a week after he was on the winning side against Chelsea, when John Terry was alleged to have racially abused him. The issue is now the subject of a Football Association investigation with the potential to bring an end to Terry's captaincy of the England team if he is found guilty of abusing Ferdinand.
Ferdinand's team lost to two goals from Gareth Bale and another from Rafael van der Vaart but averted the kind of 6-0 drubbing they suffered at Craven Cottage two weeks ago, scoring in the second half through substitute Jay Bothroyd. Warnock said: "I thought he [Ferdinand] was head and shoulders the man of the match.
"I just wish he'd picked up [Emmanuel] Adebayor for one of the goals, which I told him to. He hasn't put a foot wrong since he came here. He can get better. He definitely has the potential to play at the top level for England. He's made a few mistakes. Started thinking he was a bit of a Franz Beckenbauer at times. But he's defending now.
"That's what you want from your centre-halves. He's a good defender, a good lad, and I thought that was a good performance. It speaks volumes for his character, absolutely. He's led us at times this season."
Warnock said that the FA investigation, for which there is no definitive date on which the governing body will report back, was not an issue for his players. "We've moved on," he said. "You've got the problem, you lads. You keep bringing it up."
Asked whether he thought it had affected Ferdinand, who may release a statement on the affair today, Warnock said: "I didn't. I thought he was absolutely magnificent. It doesn't affect us at all. I don't see the timeframe of it at all. Day off tomorrow. I will go in the park and have a little ride on my bike. I won't be thinking about it."
Warnock's eagerness to praise Ferdinand suggested he had been less enamoured of the defender's performance at half-time. Certainly, Redknapp painted a disharmonious picture of the QPR dressing room at the break. "They were arguing and all sorts going on in their dressing room at half-time, it was all kicking off," he said. "I thought they're going to have a go in the second half for sure. And they lifted it second half to be fair.
"He's a good lad, Anton. I've known him since he was 11 or 12 when he used to come with his brother to West Ham. But it's been a difficult week for the kid, you know? Must have been. He's been under scrutiny. They're a good family, the Ferdinands. They've been well brought up, they're nice people."
With Spurs back up to fifth, and with third place in their sights, even Redknapp was prepared to admit the top of the table was shaping up nicely: "You never know, do you? It's wide open. I said a few weeks ago, 'Don't write Arsenal off'. Arsenal are still dangerous, and they proved that.
"If you watched Liverpool last night, good performance. No disrespect to Newcastle, if they get in the top six, it'll be a fantastic achievement. But there's six good teams up there and, OK, Man City would probably be favourites now with Man United, but it's wide open. The top four is wide open."
Warnock's team continue their difficult run of games with a visit from Manchester City next weekend. "We've come a long way since Fulham," Warnock said. "We've got more belief. It's no embarrassment. A few teams will lose by that score here. They might have wondered how many they would get first half. But we could have made it interesting at 2-1. Another five minutes and there would've been a few anxious people on their bench.
"You have to take your hat off to them. They were great finishes. He's a great player, Gareth. Pity he's Welsh."