|IF ONLY PAUL THE OCTOPUS WERE STILL WITH US ..... HE'D SORT IT OUT|
Innocent until proven guilty. It's just a catchphrase now. It's one of those things we say. We don't much mean it. Allegedly is the same. Ever noticed how they use allegedly on shows like Have I Got News For You? It's a punchline.
They throw it in with a raised eyebrow and a cheeky grin.
Maybe that is what we should do here.
John Terry is innocent until proven guilty. Little pause for comic effect. Wink to the camera, wait for the laugh. Allegedly.
In the end, it came down to a shouting contest and the lords of Twitter, the frantic self-publicists in Westminster such as Damian Collins MP and the sages of the newsprint and airwaves shouted loudest.
They did not always shout with great understanding, or even logic, but they shouted to the rolling rhythm of a bandwagon that was hurtling towards its inevitable destination.
A social lynching, a friend of mine called the events of the last few days.
He's just one of those old-school hacks, and football's not even his thing any more; but his instincts were right, and he nailed this one.
If Terry was to be removed before his trial, it had to be a football decision.
If Fabio Capello, the England manager, thought that he divided the dressing room, or his presence would prove a distraction, then he had to act, as he did before the World Cup, the first time Terry was sacked.
Capello, however, remained staunchly behind his captain this time. He was in Italy when the decision was taken, a manager paid £6million annually but not trusted to make selection calls.
His successor should be taking notes.
The next crisis for the England team - and there will be one, because there always is - should be dropped directly on the toes of the FA board, those wizards of governance.
The impossible job just got a little easier: for £6m, the FA now employ a man in a tracksuit, no more. Aggravation is on their watch. Good luck all.
The board will get their tummies tickled this morning, no doubt, and be widely praised for taking a firm line. The opposite is true.
The tough call would have been to resist, to say a man cannot lose his job without being given the chance to defend himself in due process and that however unfortunate the timing of Terry's trial, it remained a matter for the courts.
Emmanuel Frimpong, on loan to Wolves and one of the Twitter stormers, did not seem to understand this.
The FA were out of order, he said. 'If Anton Ferdinand was in the England team and was being charged for racism, would the FA wait?'
As if the FA set court dates.
His words were reported as further evidence of the mood against Terry, rather than an argument with a bus-sized hole in its centre.
Like that of Jason Roberts, who compared Terry's situation to Rio Ferdinand's in 2003, left out of the England squad before his hearing for missing a drugs test.
The difference being there was no question of whether Ferdinand was guilty. He should have taken the test, he was absent. Case closed. The FA knew the verdict in advance.
A comparison would be if Terry had racially abused Anton Ferdinand as he walked past, midway through a television interview, on camera, with utter certainty for all to see. There would be no question of waiting for formal process then. A decision could be made that night, without complaint. Nobody here condones racism.
It is the fact Terry has pleaded not guilty and could be found so that is the awkward complication, because we shouldn't condone pre-judgment either.
Still, the FA say their action in no way suggests wrongdoing on Terry's part. Allegedly.
Terry will not play for Chelsea against Manchester United on Sunday.
He would not have played in last weekend's FA Cup match against Queens Park Rangers either, but was concerned it would be interpreted as a tactical injury to avoid a poisonous atmosphere and the handshake issue.
His knee injury, however, could be a serious one.
Terry spent Friday afternoon undergoing further tests, having consulted a specialist on Thursday, and his participation in England's next match with Holland on February 29 has to be doubtful.
This would leave him with the rest of the season to make a decision on whether to be available for England at Euro 2012.
He will not be rushed into making the call, but is very conflicted on the issue: upset at what he sees as a lack of support by the FA, but loyal towards Capello, who was known to be against the decision of the FA board, taken above his head.
Capello told Terry as recently as Thursday night that he would still be his captain next summer and remains convinced he is the best man for the job.
The idea he restored Terry to the role out of pity is laughable. Capello believes English football is unique in seeking leadership from its captain and feels Steven Gerrard did not fulfil that role in 2010.
Even Terry's supposed mutiny in South Africa is now viewed benignly by Capello, who says he was the only player with the confidence to speak up about dissatisfaction in the camp.
It is not unthinkable, if Terry goes to Euro 2012, that the manager will continue to lean on him as Sir Clive Woodward did Lawrence Dallaglio, after he was replaced by Martin Johnson following a tabloid scandal.
Johnson came into his own on match days, but Dallaglio remained Woodward's man behind the scenes, his real World Cup captain.
It is now for Terry to decide whether he wishes to risk another social lynching purely by being part of Capello's squad.
Yet no doubt whenever anyone refers to the disgraced ex-captain, the shamed ex-captain, the dishonoured, twice-sacked pariah and former England captain they will be careful to remind all that he is, of course, innocent until proven guilty. Allegedly.
By MARTIN SAMUEL 3rd February 2012