As England’s Euro 2012 squad was put through its paces for the first time under Roy Hodgson, Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand was thousands of miles away in Thailand, possibly at the end of his international career.
It was a bold decision to leave out the experienced defender, who acknowledged his disappointment at the situation. It seems that his falling out with John Terry over the alleged racial abuse of his brother Anton has cost Ferdinand his place at Euro 2012 and the chance to add to his 81 caps, although Hodgson insists the decision was purely a football one.
The controversial move to drop the Manchester United centre back may have been aimed at keeping peace within the squad. However there will surely still be divisions thanks to the Ferdinand-shaped hole that will exist in Poland and Ukraine. The best way of avoiding dissension would arguably have been omitting Terry. The Chelsea captain should be considered innocent until proven guilty, but Ferdinand can only be considered innocent in this situation.
It smacks of falsehood that Hodgson claimed Ferdinand has been left out for footballing reasons. The experience garnered in huge games for United and numerous tournaments with England would have been valuable at Euro 2012. Ferdinand is one of the most gifted defenders of his generation, and whilst he perhaps has lost the edge off his once electric pace, he has improved his reading of the game that is so important at international level.
When also looking at the players chosen ahead of him in the squad, the idea of Ferdinand being left out for purely footballing reasons appears even more nonsensical. The veteran has been in excellent form this season, whereas Joleon Lescott could reasonably be described as erratic, and Gary Cahill is unproven at this level at the age of 26. Phil Jones is an understudy of Ferdinand’s at United, although the youngster does possess versatility.
Hodgson alluded to the fact that Ferdinand had not featured regularly for England since before the 2010 World Cup, and that he should stick with the players that got England to the finals. Yet the captain he has appointed, Steven Gerrard, has played just 33 minutes of international football since November 2010.
United fans will look to the positives that a summer’s rest will bring the 33-year-old. Ferdinand played 30 league games for United last term, which was huge in getting over the loss of Nemanja Vidic and bringing stability to the back line. He seems to be able to better manage the issues with his back that Sir Alex Ferguson has talked openly about. A whole summer’s rest can only be beneficial for maximising his fitness next season as United look to reclaim their Premier League crown.
The Old Trafford outfit will point to the two stalwarts of their squad, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, who both benefitted at club level thanks to retirement from international football. Scholes was just 29 when he called time on his England tenure, stating his family life and Manchester United career were more important to him. Giggs meanwhile, who has had to manage hamstring problems through his career, retired from playing with Wales at the same age Ferdinand is now. These two players have prolonged and excelled in their latter years at United. Ferdinand will hope that he can do the same.
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