Terry set for showdown with FA over Poll charges

John Terry set the stage last night for a potentially damaging legal showdown with the Football Association hierarchy when the England captain formally denied its charges against him for attacking the conduct of the referee Graham Poll - and now he could face an extra one-match ban.

The events of Chelsea's controversial defeat to Tottenham Hotspur on 5 November were never likely to be settled simply and now they seem destined to come to a head in a manner that is, at the very best, extremely awkward for a governing body which appointed Terry captain of the national team with some fanfare four months ago.

Poll has been cleared of any wrongdoing and an independent commission will decide on Terry's fate. The case centres on Terry's dismissal at White Hart Lane for a second bookable offence and the conflicting reasons he alleged that Poll gave for his sending off.

Terry claimed that on the pitch Poll had told him the second yellow card was for barging Hossam Ghaly and then after the match the official had changed his story and told him it was given for a foul on Ledley King.

The charge against Terry is that he questioned Poll's "integrity" - which represents improper conduct - and, while the FA had little choice but to charge him, it makes for a difficult stand-off with such a key figure in Steve McClaren's new side. The Chelsea captain, it is understood, will attend the hearing in person and has the full backing of his club in fighting the charge.

Chelsea have also retained the services of Jim Sturman QC, the barrister who acted for the club over the Ashley Cole tapping-up scandal. Sturman has also negotiated on the FA's behalf - most memorably on the charges brought against Roy Keane following the publication of his autobiography - and he is a specialist in sports law.

The hearing should take place over the Christmas period, although it will be difficult to set a date that all can attend and it is not certain that Poll will be there. The England captain does have one encouraging precedent on his side. In 1998, Alan Shearer, then England captain, denied intentionally stamping on Neil Lennon in a Premiership match and was cleared of any wrongdoing by the FA.

In his autobiography, the FA chief executive Graham Kelly claimed that Shearer had, in private, threatened not to play for England in the 1998 World Cup finals if he was banned. It was an allegation the player has always denied. However, with McClaren's new regime struggling in its early stages, tension within the camp is something the England coach can do without. After the match against Spurs, Terry said: "After the game, he [Poll] then said to me it was for the fall when me and Ledley King fell, so 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."

There was further controversy when Cole said that Poll had told him before the match that Chelsea "needed to be taught a lesson". The FA satisfied itself that this was not the case, although Cole, Frank Lampard and Chelsea themselves were only "reminded of their responsibilities" by the governing body.

While Chelsea appealed against Mourinho's fine for his part in the Cole affair, they are likely to adopt a conciliatory position to try to negotiate a smaller punishment for Terry.

Wayne Rooney was unhappy about his three-match ban, handed down by the FA for a red card in a pre-season friendly this summer. While there were suggestions that Rooney threatened to withdraw support for the FA's commercial contracts, that was denied by his advisers.

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