Kamis, 20 September 2012

RDM: Players should shake hands

Di Matteo: Urged QPR's players not to boycott the pre-match handshake

The Blues boss has declared John Terry and Ashley Cole fit to take their place in his starting XI.

Di Matteo revealed he expected Terry and Cole to play their part in the handshake ritual, which the Premier League later confirmed would go ahead before Saturday's west London derby at Loftus Road.

That is despite QPR having no idea today how many of their own players would snub the Chelsea duo, who return to Loftus Road for the first time since Terry was cleared in court of racially abusing Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand.

Terry still faces a Football Association charge - which he denies - over the matter and looks certain to be blanked by Ferdinand should the pair both start tomorrow.

Cole, whose evidence helped clear Terry in court and who has been nursing an ankle injury along with his captain this week, is likely to meet with the same response.

Beyond that, it is unclear how many of QPR's players - most of whom were not at the clu b when last October's altercation between Terry and Ferdinand took place - will follow suit.

Striker Bobby Zamora has already said he will shake the hand of Terry, who he played alongside at schoolboy level.

But despite having held talks with opposite number and former Chelsea team-mate Mark Hughes, Di Matteo admitted he was in the dark about what would happen tomorrow.

"I do not know, but I hope that they will as well respect the rules and go ahead with it and we can all focus on the football," he said.

"I know 'Sparky', Mark Hughes, very well and we touch base every now and again, and speak.

"Hopefully, everybody will focus on football tomorrow and move on.

"That's the most important aspect. The Premier League is watched all over the world now and we have to set a good positive standard for everyone watching.

"The handshake is just part of that, part of the Respect Campaign. Hopefully, the game will be played in good spirit. "

Di Matteo insisted there we no problems from his own players' point of view.

He said: "Our players are fine. They are respecting the rules and we're going to go ahead with it.

"I will speak to my players and, from our point of view, there are no issues."

The last two meetings between the clubs saw the pre-match handshake cancelled, primarily to avoiding prejudicing Terry's trial but also amid fears of a mass boycott by QPR's players.

Hughes has called for the ritual to be scrapped completely but Di Matteo said: "It's in place, so we respect it. The game would still go on if it wasn't in place.

"It just gives a good outlook to the people that there is one beforehand, and everyone will focus on their game."

Tomorrow's handshake also has the potential to fan the flames of supporter enmity, which has grown in the wake of a saga dating back almost a year.

"There comes a point where we hopefully put the history behind us," Di Matteo said.

"A lot has been written and said about it, and let's change the focus on to the football. The fans want to watch a good football match.

"We would like both sets of supporters, and especially our fans, to support their team.

"Football is here to unite people, rather than divide people. That's always been the case. That's what we set out our fans to do."

But he added: "Every time we go to Loftus Road it's always a feisty day. A big derby for us, a small ground with very passionate supporters from both sides.

"The rivalry is well known, so it's going to be a heated atmosphere."

Chelsea's complete loss of discipline in last season's corresponding fixture was part of the chain of events that led to Terry and Ferdinand's altercation.

The Blues played most of that game with nine men and Di Matteo said: "For both sets of players, it's important we keep our composure and play our football and focus on that, and try and win the game.

"That should be the focus. That will be the focus."

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