Chelsea would consider giving John Terry time off for his forthcoming court case in the interests of "justice", manager Andre Villas-Boas has said. It certainly won't be because of Terry's state-of-mind or whether his trial -- and tribulations -- affects the team. His resolve remains iron.
Terry has been here before, of course, with off-field issues and crises swarming around him. Time and again he has responded with a powerful performance, sometimes even a goal, and only ever a glimpse that the glare, the scrutiny, the criticism has impacted upon him with his face drawn. On Saturday, having won this fourth-round FA Cup tie, Terry led the Chelsea players over to the 3,000-plus visiting supporters at Loftus Road and gripped the badge on his shirt.
It was his only moment of emotion on an occasion that had threatened to be consumed by the court case that starts on Wednesday as Terry stands accused of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand when the two sides met last October.
This was the first time they had come face-to-face since then -- except they rarely did that. Both players studiously avoided each other and it started with the abandonment of the ritual of a pre-match handshake -- after the English FA agreed to a special dispensation -- and ended with Ferdinand taking a circuitous route around the pitch at the final whistle to ensure he didn't meet Terry.
"He is a player that has been through various situations, situations of stress and great difficult atmospheres," Villas-Boas said after the victory. "Bearing in mind the events that have happened in the past, he showed that this was just another game for him and he was just interested in football. He had an extremely good performance."
Asked whether the court case had impacted on Terry, Villas-Boas was unequivocal. "It hasn't at the moment," he said. "You have seen with the off-field events we haven't stopped using John, and his level of performance has not been affected. If that continues to be the case we will continue to do it." He added that he would only consider asking Terry to take "time off" if: "Eventually it is important for the justice we will do it. Not in the sense of what it does for the team."
Both clubs and the authorities had prayed nothing would happen given the incendiary nature of the contest which had been heightened further with Ferdinand receiving a death threat and a bullet in the post of the eve of the match. But no-one wanted that to stretch to, well, nothing happening on the pitch either -- although Chelsea did lose Ramires to injury with the fear he will be out for four weeks because of damaged medial knee ligaments.
There was one moment of controversy; one moment of fierce debate -- when Daniel Sturridge threw himself to the turf, persuading referee Mike Dean that he had been pushed by Clint Hill, to claim the penalty that Juan Mata drove past Paddy Kenny to settle the encounter.
For the rest, given what could have happened, it was a relief that the only major talking point was yet another refereeing controversy. (© Daily Telegraph, London)