Hart hoping new leaders emerge

 

JOE HART has described John Terry as “an inspiration” and expressed regret at the Chelsea captain’s decision to retire from international football, with the England goalkeeper urging the next generation of centre halves to seize their opportunity and prosper at the highest level.

Life after Terry begins for Roy Hodgson’s side tomorrow in front of a sell-out crowd at Wembley, albeit only against San Marino, the joint lowest-ranked side in world football, after the 31-year-old quit on 78 caps last month having grown infuriated at a Football Association charge for using abusive language with racial connotations.

Terry, who had been cleared of a racially aggravated public order offence at Westminster magistrates court in July, described his position as “untenable” at the time but was subsequently found guilty by a three-man panel of racially abusing the Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand.

“John is a great centre half, a great servant to his country, an inspiration and a very passionate and proud Englishman,” said Hart. “It’s a shame we’ve lost him as he’s still got so much ability.

“It’s a big blow, but it’s John’s decision. I don’t know what’s going on in John’s life on or off the field. I don’t know his body or his frame of mind. I only know that, when I’m here with England, training and eating chicken and pasta next to him, he’s a really good guy, a good person and, football-wise, an inspiration.”

The fall-out from the incident at Loftus Road has seen Terry first stripped of the captaincy and then reluctantly retire, Fabio Capello resign, Rio Ferdinand fined for retweeting a message that described Ashley Cole as a “choc ice”, and Cole also charged with misconduct for an outburst on Twitter.

The left-back is not expected to appeal against that sanction by today’s 4pm deadline. Terry is adamant he has been wronged by the independent panel’s judgment, but is still considering whether to launch an appeal.

Roy Hodgson is expected to pair Joleon Lescott with Phil Jagielka in defence, with Kyle Walker to be handed a first competitive start at right back and Leighton Baines likely to start at left back. Should Frank Lampard miss out then Wayne Rooney would most likely wear the armband.

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