Monday, 4 June 2012

Rio issue could overshadow whole tournament

The England fans and press never really believed  Roy Hodgson’s assertion that Rio Ferdinand was dropped for ‘footballing reasons’, but were prepared to accept it for now as attention switched towards the impending European Championships.

But as the steady succession of England players pulled out through injury, with Ferdinand still excluded, it became increasingly obvious that the Manchester United man was left out for political reasons.

Poor old Martin Kelly is the innocent victim in this, but his call-up in place of Gary Cahill means that Hodgson will struggle to justify those footballing reasons given Kelly only made 12 appearances for Liverpool last season and has little over 10 minutes of live football in an England shirt under his belt.

It is clear Ferdinand was dropped due to the simmering feud between himself and John Terry, who is to stand trial later this year accused of racially abusing Ferdinand’s brother Anton.

It is an issue that Hodgson has been lumbered with and one he really shouldn’t have. The FA are the masters of their downfall in all of this. 

They stripped Terry of the captaincy in February over the issue, causing Fabio Capello to quit, but in my view they should have gone further, telling Terry he would not be selected while this court case was hanging over him (though why this has dragged on for so long I don’t know – the incident happened in October).

Instead we have this almost farcical situation whereby Hodgson is choosing everyone BUT Rio Ferdinand, who is effectively being punished for the actions of Terry, who– by accident or design – is being protected by the FA.

If Terry and Ferdinand don't get on because of the impending court case, why should the one who is actually standing trial stay in the squad?

And herein lies the truth; if Hodgson had to choose, it is clear he sees Terry as the better player to have in the squad than Ferdinand (footballing reasons after all!), and given how sensitive footballers' egos are, Rio won't have taken that well

Throw in the likes of Micah Richards and Michael Carrick, who refused to be on the standby list for their country, and it paints a sorry tale of English international football. All it needs is a group stage exit for the game to fall back into its usual state of crisis –if it isn’t already.

Even if Ferdinand’s gone he won’t be forgotten and the manner of his exclusion will not go down well with his teammates and friends who are on the plane to Poland, meaning those divisions Hodgson was so desperate to avoid could open up anyway.

 By dealing with this issue in such a clumsy manner the FA have made Hodgson’s job 10 times worse and once again given the media licence to distract the attention away from matters on the pitch to dealings off it.

Given the football betting puts England as outsiders to even qualify from their group, that is something the players could really do without right now. 

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