• Premier League

QPR agree to Chelsea handshakes

ESPN staff
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John Terry and Anton Ferdinand met in court this summer © PA Photos
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Queens Park Rangers manager Mark Hughes has said the Premier League will "have to wait and see" how his players deal with the pre-match handshakes after the Football Association confirmed that they would go ahead when John Terry returns to Loftus Road with Chelsea on Saturday.

The west London rivals are facing one another for the first time since Chelsea captain John Terry was put on trial for allegedly racially abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand in 2011.

Terry was found not guilty in court, but was later charged by the Football Association and will be called on to mount his defence for a second time on September 24.

In the meantime, the testimony of Terry's team-mate Ashley Cole during the trial also saw him drawn into the furore.

Both can expect a rowdy reception at Loftus Road, with the pre-match handshakes proving to be one of the key focal points of such controversy in the past.

The Premier League confirmed on Friday that the handshakes will go ahead as planned.

"There has been dialogue between the Premier League, Queens Park Rangers and Chelsea in relation to tomorrow's match between the two clubs," the Premier League said in a statement.

"All parties understand and acknowledge that the pre-match handshake will go ahead as part of the normal pre-match activity."

Hughes said he had spoken with the FA and the Premier League about the pre-match "ritual", but refused to disclose his views on the subject.

"We're governed by the Premier League and if we're told to go along with the pre-match procedure then we will do that," said Hughes, who has sounded out his players' views ahead of the game.

"We've had discussion about it but that's between myself and the players. I have a view on where they are, but if the Premier League says the handshake goes ahead then so be it, we'll accept that."

Hughes added that Ferdinand was both physically and mentally ready for the match as he comes back from a shoulder injury, but could not say how his defender or his team-mates would deal with Terry and Cole during the handshakes.

"We'll have to wait and see," Hughes continued. "I'm sure everybody has a mind of their own and they'll make a personal decision. It's unfortunate that they [the QPR players] are put in a situation where it's in the public domain, but that's where we are."

While the Welshman refused to elaborate on his reservations about handshakes before the game, he did express his concern that the build-up to the match had focused away from matters on the pitch.

"I'm conscious of the fact that almost always when we go up against Chelsea the issue of the handshakes seems to cloud everybody's mind," Hughes said. "I think the focus should be put back on that."

And the QPR manager said he had no concerns about the behaviour of the club's fans this weekend. "QPR fans are fantastic fans and our home support is second to none," Hughes said.

"I would expect them to get behind their team and inspire us to a performance. We actually owe them something because the last time out in the Premier League wasn't what we wanted to produce for them, so we'll be trying to put that right."

Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo echoed Hughes' sentiments, arguing that what happens during the 90 minutes ought to be the focus of the match.

"The Premier League is being watched all over the world now and we have to set a good positive standard for everybody who is watching," said Di Matteo.

"The handshake is just a part of it, and part of the Respect campaign as well, and hopefully the game will be played in good spirit."

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