Don't mention the F-word: Touchy FA will not tolerate questions on Ferdinand snub
22:07 GMT, 6 June 2012
England finally arrived here on Wednesday night but the focus remained very much on the man they left behind.
No sooner had FA chairman David Bernstein taken a short walk into the city’s busy but beautiful main market square than he was being quizzed about Rio Ferdinand.
Accompanied by Sir Trevor Brooking and Club England managing director Adrian Bevington, Bernstein was not at all keen to discuss the issue.
No words: David Bernstein refused to talk about Rio Ferdinand
He was happy enough to provide a
general update. ‘I think we are in a balanced position today,’ he said.
‘The squad are feeling confident and training has gone well. The
build-up has been really excellent.’
The build-up has been over- shadowed
by the controversial exclusion of Ferdinand, and in particular the FA’s
attempts to deny it has anything to do with John Terry standing trial
next month for allegedly racially abusing Ferdinand’s brother Anton.
On Wednesday Bernstein was asked to
respond to the angry statement from the defender’s representative which
branded as ‘disrepectful’ the call-up of Martin Kelly ahead of
Bernstein was asked five times about Ferdinand, and he refused to answer on every occasion.
Questioned: FA Chairman David Bernstein speaks to the press alongside Managing Director of Club England Adrian Bevington (left) and Sir Trevor Brooking (right)
‘We spent a long while building up to
this tournament,’ he said. ‘We’re here to talk about the tournament,
about the 23 players who are here and I’m not prepared to discuss — at
all —any players who are not here.’
Ferdinand nevertheless remains an
issue, Bernstein was told. ‘It might be an issue,’ he said. ‘But it’s an
issue I’m happy to talk about when the tournament is over, maybe. We
believe we should focus on what’s ahead of us, not what is behind us.’
The FA chairman was then asked if
questions about Ferdinand are now ‘off-limits’. He said: ‘As far as I’m
And for Roy Hodgson ‘I’m sure he can speak for himself,’ said Bernstein. ‘But I imagine you’ll get the same answer.’
‘It’s a big topic,’ he was then told.
‘There’s no point in pressing,’ he
said. ‘There is no way we are talking about players who are not here.
And we’d hope you would join us in looking forward with positive
thoughts and not dwelling on historical, extraneous issues.’
Not included: Ferdinand was excluded from the squad and overlooked as back-up
Issue: Ferdinand was furious at the snub
A further question concerned Kelly,
and how a young player who was called up in preference to Ferdinand to
replace Gary Cahill might be feeling right now. Is he confident ‘I’m
sure he is,’ said Bernstein.
There was one more question, and Brooking decided to respond. ‘We have 23 players here who are really up for it,’ he said.
The team now ranked sixth in the world
will certainly like it in Krakow, even if the city’s deputy mayor has
warned that the noise — and the attention of young Polish women — could
be a problem.
ENGLAND IN KRAKOW
53 rooms at England’s Stary Hotel, each furnished with dark wooden floors, flatscreen televisions and under-floor heating in the bathroom.
14 different types of massage available at the hotel’s spa. There is also a swimming pool underground, complete with a ‘relaxation cave’ which contains salts from the Dead Sea.
4 minutes’ walk to the Pod Roza hotel, where the WAGs are staying.
177 pounds per night is the average cost of staying at the team hotel.
20 minutes is the amount of time it will take England — with a police escort — to reach their Suche Stawy stadium training base from their hotel.
24 times a day, on the hour, a bugler plays a 30-second tune from a church tower next to the team hotel.
10 That’s the time in the morning when the happy hour starts at the Legend bar, which is next door to the hotel. It finishes at four in the afternoon. Hopefully our boys will be training then…
SAM CUNNINGHAM & ALEX KAY
Their city-centre base is a world away from the isolation of Rustenburg; far more appealing and far more pleasant.
That said, players who prefer a bit of
peace might be disturbed by the dozens of bars and restaurants as well
as an hourly bugle call.
‘During the night Krakow is a noisy city,’ said deputy mayor Magdalena Sroka.
It is probably just as well Hodgson
has issued his squad with a code of conduct in the hope that they do not
imitate their rugby counterparts at their last World Cup.
‘The players can only have problems with the girl fans, I believe,’ added Sroka. ‘For sure, they are handsome.’
Two other teams are based here: the Dutch by the river, about a mile from the main square, and the Italians on the outskirts.
The training ground England will use
is in more tranquil surroundings. The pitch at the Hutnik Stadium looked
superb on Wednesday — and so it should after 130,000 worth of
investment — the only thing missing being the all-important penalty
spots from where England will need to get plenty of practice.
As England’s team bus, decorated with a
slogan that read ‘one prize, two countries, three lions’, pulled into
the main square, an interview with the man who appears to favour 4-4-2
Hodgson will not be available to talk
about Ferdinand until the eve of the France game. But in a pre-recorded
interview with the BBC he spoke of the challenge he faces, even
admitting it would have been better for England had his predecessor
still been in charge, given how late he has come to the job.
Ready for business: England players are raring to go
Looking good: England's training base
‘The ideal situation would have been
for Fabio Capello, who knows this team, coached this team and helped the
team qualify, to have led them into the tournament,’ he said. ‘That’s
not to be. I’m happy to step into the job. It’s not particularly a
hindrance but I can’t say it’s ideal.’
He spoke of the ‘enormous pressure’
international footballers are under. ‘I think players, everywhere,
struggle to cope with that,’ he said. ‘As a coach you have to make
certain they have the mental strength or character to deal with all
that’s asked of them.’
At the Krakow training base the serious work begins on Thursday.