Scrap handshakes and get on with football

Posted by Phil Lythell

If Chelsea fancied a nice quiet fixture after the international break they are not going to get one. The match at Queens Park Rangers on Saturday will undoubtedly be played out against the noisiest of any of the weekend's Premier League matches with the battle for local bragging rights fuelled still further by events of last season.

The fallout from the last league meeting between these two sides at Loftus Road has not blown over with John Terry's acquittal over charges of racial abuse sparking annoyance among those at QPR and the wider world that had already passed their own judgement on the Chelsea captain before any evidence had even been considered. But while an FA charge still hangs over the England captain, ignoring the innocent verdict of Westminster Magistrates Court - the main conversation in the build-up to Saturday's fixture has centred around the pre-match handshake.

The last time the teams faced each other the handshake was called off but no such application has been made by either QPR or Chelsea as yet, raising the possibility of Anton Ferdinand delivering a high-profile snub to both Terry and Ashley Cole - the latter having spoken in his team-mate's defence in court - by refusing to take either man's hand.

Rather than surmising whether Ferdinand will indulge in some fake cordiality or, as expected, reject Terry's hand perhaps instead the question should be asked as to why we have this ridiculous ritual in the first place. It was brought in to encourage respect and fair play but the cursory pleasantries exchanged prior to kick off have never been likely to prevent a reckless tackle in the ensuing match or the tempers that flare as a consequence.

The “will-he-won't-he" saga is reminiscent of the soap opera that preceded Patrice Evra's pre-match introduction with Luis Suarez and in that case it served only to inflame tensions further and to highlight the whole concept is an irrelevant charade. Respect for your opponent is to battle like your lives depend on it for 90 minutes and then to be able to shake their hand in mutual admiration afterwards even if you've spent the previous hour and a half kicking several lumps out of each other.

While there has never been much love lost between Chelsea and QPR fans, the atmosphere in the stands will be at full voltage and any snub will do nothing but raise the temperature still further both during the game and in the streets afterwards. But any crowd trouble occurring as a result would not be Ferdinand's fault, that would be the fault of the powers that be forcing the players to disingenuously go through the motions. However, if the Premier League does decide that the pre-match handshake should not take place after all then that in itself calls into question why it exists at all. If the idea is to foster better relations between rivals then surely it is shown to be completely impotent when the practice is only employed on a case-by case basis?

Perhaps the authorities are gambling on the fact that both Terry and Cole will be unable to recover from the injuries that are currently afflicting each of them in time to be selected in Roberto Di Matteo's starting eleven thus eliminating any chance of controversy. If they were not such important players for the Blues I might almost feel the same as the furore is threatening to detract from what could be a very entertaining match. Rangers have overhauled their squad over the summer, with Jose Bosingwa one of those to have joined their ranks and while they have only picked up one point so far this season they will be keen to claim the scalp of their European champion neighbours.

Equally, Chelsea will be desperate to maintain their 100% record and banish memories of the 1-0 defeat at Loftus Road last season. Torres was rampant as QPR were swatted aside at Stamford Bridge in April and a repeat result would be very welcome indeed. The players should be suitably scalded after their embarrassment in the UEFA Super Cup and I fully expect them to pick up three points. Let's just hope we are talking about some wonderful football after the final whistle and not about some pointless handshake, whether it happens or not.

Follow Phil Lythell on Twitter @PhilLythell

ESPN Conversations