Chelsea close ranks


ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE:CHELSEA HAVE offered their full support to Ashley Cole and Dave Barnard in spite of the fierce criticism that they took in the full written judgment from the Football Association’s regulatory commission into the John Terry affair.

The European champions found themselves under siege yesterday as their England left-back and club secretary were condemned in the strongest terms for giving allegedly unreliable evidence in support of Terry, the captain, who was found guilty last week by the commission of racially abusing the Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand.

The commission suggested that Cole’s evidence had “evolved” over time to suit Terry’s defence; specifically, in relation to his hearing, Ferdinand used the word “black” in the flashpoint between the players at Loftus Road in October of last year.

The use or otherwise of the word had serious implications.

The commission was scathing about Cole, having reached the conclusion that he “did not hear and could not have believed, understood or misunderstood Mr Ferdinand to have used the word ‘black’ or any other word beginning with ‘B’ that had any reference to, or context with, skin colour, race or ethnicity”.

They were equally dismissive of Barnard, finding “significant doubts about the case that [his] statement advances”. They described his recollections as “materially defective”.

Barnard made no comment at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground yesterday afternoon but it is believed that the club’s hierarchy consider him to have done nothing wrong. They accept that his role in Cole’s interview statement was to facilitate and act as a type of middle-man, even if the seniority of his position would tend to suggest he would always be more than a mere mediator.

A Chelsea spokesman confirmed the club’s position on Barnard and Cole. “David co-operated fully with the FA at all times,” he said.

“He stands by his evidence and does not accept the criticism that has been made. It should also be noted that David was not given the opportunity to give oral evidence to the commission, so we feel any criticism is unjustified. With Ashley Cole, he, too, co-operated at all times with the FA and stands by the evidence that he gave. He does not accept the criticism that has been made.”

Cole, though, reacted furiously when he learned of the commission’s comments about him and he took to his Twitter account immediately to attack the Football Association, which, given his status as an established England international, was ill-advised, to say the least. His hash-tag was inflammatory. “Hahahahaa, well done #fa I lied did I, #BUNCHOFTWATS,” he tweeted.

Cole sent his tweet at 12.51pm, shortly after he finished training and, undeniably, in the “heat of the moment”.

He later deleted it and issued a profuse apology, which quashed the notion that he might be considering following Terry into international retirement.

Cole has 98 caps and stands to reach his century in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Poland. “I had just finished training and saw the captions on the TV screens in the treatment rooms about what was said in the FA Commission ruling about me,” Cole said. “I was really upset and tweeted my feelings in the heat of the moment. I apologise unreservedly for my comment about the FA.”

Cole’s tweet came six minutes into Roberto Di Matteo’s press conference, which was, ostensibly, to preview the Premier League visit of Norwich City today but, as ever, on-pitch matters were lower down the agenda. Di Matteo squirmed as he became embroiled in a breaking news story in front of live TV cameras and uncomfortable questions were hurled at him; among them, “Roberto, are your players out of control?”

Di Matteo said: “Players need to realise that tweets can be viewed by anybody and have to be responsible with that,” and he closed ranks, yet again, around Terry, even though it was clear that he would have loved to talk about football and, perhaps, how Chelsea are unbeaten and top of the league.

The manager did speak in general terms about heat-of-the-moment reactions in top-level sport and the need for society as a whole to behave better.

“Sometimes, when you’re pushed to the edge of your abilities, you might react in a way that you wouldn’t expect,” he said.

Guardian Service

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