Should Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand have been included in England's Euro 2012 squad?

 

 

By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor 

 

 

Rio Ferdinand isn't always the easy-going guy that everybody believes he is but for him to be omitted from the England squad for the European Championship finals is a deafening message conveyed by new England manager Roy Hodgson that experience doesn't always matter anymore.  

The Manchester United defender's exclusion from the Three Lions 23-man party for Poland and Ukraine demonstrates that Hodgson is taking a firm stance among the more established members of the senior set-up that they are going to have to prove themselves more than ever that they are worthy of taking their place in the side and sitting on the plane travelling to a major tournament. His presence in the 2014 World Cup squad for Brazil has also been cast in serious doubt- more importantly his international future in the fold. In my humble opinion, the catalyst for him being snubbed links to his frosty relationship with Terry.

Hodgson has stated that Ferdinand was left out purely for "footballing reasons" yet the ongoing feud between John Terry and Rio's brother Anton regarding the alleged racists remarks signalled towards the QPR defender by Chelsea captain Terry during a Premier League match last October has brought these reasons into question. Thus his exclusion avoids a potential conflict with Terry- who is to stand trial next month in court for the racist allegation against him. Naming both Terry and Ferdinand- who have forged a solid and reliable defensive partnership for England for many years- would have created an awkward and uncoordinated situation in the dressing room which would harm the morale between the players in the squad. So, the boss named unfavourably himself over Harry Redknapp at the start of last month was left in a difficult position whereby he could only name one of the two in his party. These footballing reasons could relate to the fact that Ferdinand hasn't participated in any England game for twelve months.

Rightly, being a high-profile and globally regarded player and role model to youngsters, Rio doesn't take any prisoners and doesn't accept the repulsive issue of racism which unfortunately seems to have taken over the game of football over the past twelve months with several incidents springing to mind. Suarez's refusal to shake the hand of Patrice Evra took centre stage yet Ferdinand received little criticism for ignoring the Uruguayan considered to be the moral thing to do.

On the one hand, you have Blues skipper Terry- the heart and soul of Chelsea Football Club whose form has been scrutinised by many pundits this season but has just collected his long awaited Champions League winners medal- while he had been England captain for so long. His Chelsea side have also won the FA Cup yet only managed a derisory sixth placed finish in the Premier League. While on the other hand, you have Ferdinand who has narrowly missed out on the Premier League title by eight goals with United. He has appeared 34 times in the league despite many describing his fitness and stamina as inadequate to perform at the top level on a consistent basis. He has featured at three different World Cup tournaments meaning he is now unlikely to fulfil his dream of playing at the Euros for England- unless he is selected at the age of 37 four years from now. I know which one I would take.

Indeed, the only factor that you can justify taking Terry over Ferdinand is his superior goalscoring tally where the Chelsea defender has enjoyed his best ever scoring season netting six Premier League goals during 2011-12, while Ferdinand hasn't managed a goal since October 2008 in any competition for club or country.

It seems like only yesterday that John Terry unceremoniously and irrefutably was making the front page news yet again for non-footballing matters as his private life was spread out in the headlines for his sexual affair with the girlfriend of best friend and colleague Wayne Bridge. For this, his role as England captain was relinquished and thus handed in time to Rio Ferdinand. Although, just several months later, his adversary Terry was reinstated with the armband.

 

 

The centre-back (pictured in action for Manchester United) missed six weeks at the beginning of last season while he hasn't featured for England since 4th June 2011

 

 

Many will feel that Hodgson conceivably has attempted to avoid inflaming the predicament further by leaving Ferdinand at home- which can be perceived positively or negatively depending on who you are and your personal thoughts on Rio. If both were chosen, would it have sparked a row which would transfer to the goings-on on the pitch? That's an entirely different equation. It has mixed views with the intense debate spilling over beyond people inside the ring of the England group, media representatives and pundits alike. Spurs playmaker Rafael Van der Vaart, travelling to Euro 2012 with Holland, described Ferdinand's non-admission as "surprising" commenting that he is "one of England's best defenders". In Hodgson's defence (no pun intended), Van der Vaart's club manager Redknapp says the decision was "difficult" adding that Ferdinand "will be gutted but has to accept".

On the flip side of the coin, David Pleat and Danny Mills are among those backing Hodgson's actions explaining that "no player has a right to be in the team" giving the example of Micah Richards who has also been overlooked for Poland & Ukraine despite enjoying a superb season for Premier League winners Manchester City. Former England international John Barnes said that the manager must be backed in response to comments made by Ferdinand's agent that Hodgson was "out of order" and "disrespecting" the defender.

Ferdinand acquires a number of vital attributes that a winning team needs in order to be successful in their aspirations. His ability to read the game and stay calm under pressure is fantastic while although he may have "lost half a yard of pace in the last couple of years" (according to Sir Alex Ferguson), he remains more than capable of getting the better of some of the best attacking talents that world football has to offer. He has the knowledge to perform his defensive duties to full effect and adapt to them to any given situation during a match. The list could go on but for Hodgson's sake we will stop at that.

If being ignored once was bad enough, then being ignored twice adds insult to injury and rubs salt directly into the wounds for Ferdinand. Having been told over the phone in person by the newly-appointed head coach that he will not take part in the tournament originally as well as not even making the list of back-ups, Rio was later secluded when Gary Cahill had to withdraw from the squad with a 22-year old full-back from Liverpool- Martin Kelly- who plays second-fiddle to an already-present Glen Johnson at Anfield while featuring in a handful of matches last season preferred after all the defensive options in the five replacements had been utilised. Kelly had made his senior debut as recently as May 26th against Norway in a short cameo off the bench and made no impact whatsoever.

With the saddening loss of experienced cogs to the system in Lampard, Barry and Cahill through injury, Ferdinand would have been the perfect choice to come in to show his friendly face to uplift the whole squad whilst sharing his wisdom with younger members such as Phil Jones. His experience would have had a lasting effect even more so in such circumstances- which in tournament football where you cannot afford to lose would have done England no harm at all. His recent international outings have been in short supply while a training tackle by Emile Heskey left him crocked thus putting pay to his his participation in the 2010 World Cup near to the tournament start date.

 

 

Ferdinand has amassed 81 caps for England scoring three goals since making his international debut in November 1997

 

 

Such is the professionalism of the former Leeds and West Ham United defender, Rio has vowed to continue to support the England team at the Euros despite his exclusion from the squad although admitted that he will be watching from the pub. In addition, he will not let this downturn affect him or his chances of being called up in the future to the England set-up. Having said that, inside he will be gutted that he hasn't been selected considering his generally fine form for Manchester United in the closing weeks of the season where he combined a telepathic understanding with the likes of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling who could have been potential partners for him in the defence in Poland & Ukraine had he been chosen. Rio is a passionate guy and is dedicated to what he does.

Once again in a major footballing circle, we have seen the off-the-field problems take over whereby Hodgson stated in a candid first press conference after the announcement that he will succeed Fabio Capello that players will be selected for the tournament based on "form and merit only". If Ferdinand has been left out due to his lack of form and does not merit a place among the elite, then it is hard to see what else he could have done or what others have done that he hasn't to gain recognition.

You cannot help but wonder whether this ignorance of Ferdinand spells the end of a long career at international level for the 33-year old. There are many others coming through the ranks now which can see him burdened to a place on the sidelines with the likes of Joleon Lescott, Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Phil Jagielka and Michael Dawson providing tough competition as well as being physically better-equipped for handling the big tournament football in the future. Ferdinand will be 35 by the time the squad selection process comes around once more for World Cup Brazil 2014. However, Hodgson insists that Ferdinand still has a lot to offer the national team and is full of admiration for him- he remains one of the best defenders in the country regardless of whether or not he carries on to answer the international calls.

His performances for his club overall this season have been generally solid- however Hodgson may well have weighed up the demands of playing every four days. Ferdinand's representatives were quoted to have said that the England manager has shown the defender "a lack of respect" for totally disregarding him while Rio, a regular user of social networking sites, took to Twitter to publicly display his disappointment saying that feeling "gutted" about his exclusion was "an understatement of the highest order". Despite the growing concerns of his age and fitness levels, Rio is still a valuable member of both the Manchester United squad and England set-up.


Click here to hear the thoughts of BBC's John Motson on Ferdinand's England future

Rio Ferdinand omission surprises Spurs' Dutch superstar Rafael Van der Vaart

FA chairman David Bernstein will not be drawn on Rio Ferdinand issue

Click here to listen to views of England boss Hodgson on Ferdinand's omission

 

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