Glenn Gibbons: Terry affair has lessons for managers

THE Football Association’s decision to convict John Terry of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand will have pleased some and shocked others, but it should be a universally saddening truth that the affair reinforces the veracity of an old proverb: it is truly an ill wind that blows nobody good.

Neither the perpetrator nor his judges will have derived any pleasure or satisfaction from the outcome, while the target of the insult, whatever the verdict, will have been left with a sense of degradation that cannot be imagined by anyone who is not black.

Terry has declared his intention to await written details of the reasons for the judgement before deciding whether or not to extend an already protracted process by lodging an appeal. It would be difficult, however, to find anyone beyond the Chelsea and former England defender himself and his legal team who does not believe that the case has taken a ridiculous time to settle.p

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The notion that English football’s governors should have concluded the business before the national team contested Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine is both widespread and unanswered. A personal view is that the FA may have postponed their own action in order to wait for the result of the criminal court case which arose from the allegation made against Terry.

It is entirely possible that they would be au fait with the Scottish FA’s error in suspending Duncan Ferguson for assaulting John McStay in 1994 after he had been given a jail sentence by a sheriff. The authorities ruled the football body’s conviction out of order because Ferguson could not be punished twice for the same crime and it is arguable that the FA wished to avoid the same mistake.

But, whatever implications, complications and ramifications may spring from the Terry-Ferdinand affair, it surely provides a reminder to managers of the folly of rushing to make slanted comments on specific incidents.

These are invariably loaded in favour of the accused – one of their own players, naturally – and based on nothing more substantial than their opinion of the latter’s character.

Fabio Capello caused buildings to quake when he resigned as England manager in February over the FA’s removal of Terry from the captaincy on the back of the Ferdinand allegations. He and his first lieutenant, Franco Baldini, even sent written statements to the tribunal, making a defence of the player based on his work under their supervision. It must not have occurred to the Italian that, however high the esteem in which he held Terry, it was utterly irrelevant to what was said to Ferdinand on the fateful day.

Capello’s actions, though, simply provide more evidence for those who argue that football managers (being themselves former players) tend, in the main, to be impervious to absorbing lessons.

His defence of Terry also chimes with the reaction of Kenny Dalglish, then the Liverpool manager, to the charge of repeated racial abuse laid against Luis Suarez during an altercation with the Manchester United full-back, Patrice Evra.

Dalglish went to ludicrous lengths in proclaiming the Uruguayan’s innocence – even wearing a T-shirt demonstrating “solidarity” with the rest of his players – before Suarez was found guilty. Dalglish, eventually, owned up to having mishandled the affair and it remains widely held in Liverpool that his behaviour during that period was an embarrassment to the club’s American owners and that it contributed vitally to his ultimate dismissal.

Ally McCoist, too, made an impulsive – and seriously misguided – intrusion into controversy last season, when it was learned that the Rangers midfielder, Steven Naismith, would be summoned over the elbowing of the Dunfermline defender, Austin McCann.

Missed by referee Iain Brines, the assault was graphically captured on film. Without having had a single viewing, McCoist insisted that Naismith must be innocent for the extraordinary reason that “he’s not that type of lad”.

Naismith was not only found by the review panel to be, indeed, that type of lad, but he also seems to have succumbed to recidivism. His seemingly uncontrollable elbow now appears – once again, the video evidence seems damning – to have flown to the face of opponent Srdan Mijailovic during Scotland’s latest World Cup qualifier with Serbia and he will be tried by Fifa next month.