Terry navigates around racism storm
John Terry's meeting with the media started with a bouquet before barbed wire was placed around the elephant standing in the room with England's besieged captain.
Terry's opening act on his first public inquisition since the Metropolitan Police opened its investigation into allegations that he racially abused QPR's Anton Ferdinand in the recent west London derby was to present flowers to a departing member of the media corps.
Cynics could suggest the gesture was part of a charm offensive intended to draw the sting from the questions heading in Terry's direction, but the Football Association's sentiments were genuine as the captain smiled for the cameras along with coach Fabio Capello.
The FA's stance - and that of the players who have almost formed an orderly queue to support their captain since the squad assembled at their Hertfordshire hotel last week - was that it was "business as usual" despite the publicity accompanying Terry on his latest tour of international duty.
England captain John Terry (right) is back in the starting eleven against Sweden after remaining on the bench during his side's 1-0 win over Spain at Wembley. PHOTO Getty
Terry can, rightly or wrongly, be accused of many things but not of being a shrinking violet when personal issues invade his professional territory.
It is no secret he would have happily performed his media duties as captain before the meeting with Spain at Wembley had Capello not spared him by leaving him on the bench.
There was some surprise that he made an appearance on Monday ahead of his recall against Sweden, especially as the FA made it clear before and during his interviews that the major topic of the day was strictly out of bounds, turning his encounters with the different arms of the media into verbal sparring.
Capello's mantra, from the moment he named his squad, has been "innocent until proven guilty" and Terry's appearance alongside the Italian was a public demonstration of his belief in this principle, even if the specific subject matter itself was not up for discussion.
And there was no sign of tension or hesitation from Terry as he strode in step with the cameramen alongside Capello to deliver his floral tribute before breaking off to face questions.
Terry was also in strident form as he reflected on the relatively benign reception he received when warming up against Spain at Wembley, when a fair portion of applause was mixed with a smattering of jeers.
"I thought it was a good reaction," he said. "I clapped and got a good reaction back. I was delighted with that. I got a few boos but I always get that."
The notion that allegations of racism would escape mention was always far-fetched. Some questions were either going to be stealthily loaded or carry obvious ammunition.
And it was not long before the "R" word got an airing.
As expected an FA official pounced to reiterate the ground rules: "You know we are not going to talk about this matter. There is an investigation." A further question about whether Terry would like to talk about his current difficulty was dismissed as "irrelevant" - and so it went on.
Terry's history tells us that he may have been tempted to talk given the opportunity.
He prides himself on his ability to "front up", sometimes to his detriment such as when he was harshly judged to have launched some form of public coup against his coach by brutally laying bare the facts of life about the so-called "Camp Capello" during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
On this occasion the front also had the protective shield of the FA's censorship of questions about what may or may not have happened at Loftus Road last month.
Terry declared that part of his duty as England captain was "about coming out and facing up to it" - or facing up to some of it in this case.
It all added up to a phoney war as the media assembled on behalf of radio, television and written press tried to pierce the shield and were all met by the FA wielding the sort of broad bat Geoffrey Boycott himself might have envied.
England's starting line-up against Sweden on Tuesday might act as a lightning conductor for more hostile elements in the crowds, Terry did not show it.
If Terry had any worries about his situation, they were nowhere to be seen as he made a smiling departure back to his hotel room.
The Metropolitan Police is still going about its business - but England's captain looked solely focused on Wembley as the place where he can escape until investigations are concluded.