Di Matteo said: “As a human being there are certain aspects of life that will faze you, but if you look at his career he’s always got on with it.
"To be able to survive for so many years at the top level in football, at club and international level, you need to be mentally strong. That goes for all the players who have had that kind of career, not just JT.
“I played with some great players in my career. There were certain players who were very, very confident. Players like Paolo Maldini, Angelo Peruzzi, Pierluigi Casiraghi, Alessandro Costacurta, Alessandro Del Piero, all players who have spent 15 to 20 years at the highest level of domestic and international football.”
Di Matteo insists all players at Loftus Road this afternoon have a
responsibility to set a “positive standard” to the millions of people who
He said his
Di Matteo said: “We’re going to respect the rules and the protocol in place with the Premier League and set a positive standard to the millions of people who are going to watch us around the world, and make sure people focus on the football side rather than anything else.
“Players do have a responsibility. They are role models and children watch them. We will go ahead [with the handshakes]. Hopefully everybody will focus on football and move on. That’s the most important aspect.”
Di Matteo is preparing himself for a volatile occasion. “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,” he said. “The rivalry is well known, so it’s going to be a heated atmosphere.”
Terry and Cole are both fit after recovering from ankle injuries, and the Stamford Bridge captain is almost certain to be subjected to sustained abuse from the home fans over the incident last October in which he was seen mouthing a racially offensive phrase in Ferdinand’s direction.
Terry has insisted he only used racist language in the context of a denial and was cleared in court in July of abusing Ferdinand, but has since been charged by the Football Association over the incident.
Di Matteo’s predecessor, Andre Villas-Boas, blamed the 1-0 defeat in this
Di Matteo, whose side arrive at Loftus Road top of the table and with a 100 per cent record, said: “It was the start of a difficult time for us last season, after that defeat when we played with nine players which took a lot of energy, physically and mentally.
"We want to keep all our players on the pitch, stick to our game plan and try to maintain our positive run.”