Now heal Rio rift, Roy: Ferdinand is the best option but will Hodgson ask him to return
21:30 GMT, 24 September 2012
Roy Hodgson is in Warsaw this week reflecting on last summer’s European Championship with the other national team coaches.
But however much time England’s manager spends looking back, he might also want to look ahead to when he is next in town.
It is not long. On October 16 his England side will contest what has become a hugely important World Cup qualifier against Poland and after dropping two points at home to Ukraine two weeks ago it is not an encounter he can afford to lose.
Meeting point: Roy Hodgson in Warsaw for the UEFA conference
Among a number of issues he needs to address is his defence, and in particular the difficulties his centre-halves experienced against Ukraine.
In the absence of John Terry, Phil Jagielka and Joleon Lescott certainly struggled and Terry’s sudden retirement from international football on Sunday has not made Hodgson’s job any easier. Not least because his options are so limited.
Right now he would be able to call on Lescott, Jagielka and Gary Cahill. But with Phil Jones and Chris Smalling injured, the need to turn to the one English centre-half at Manchester United who is fit seems impossible to ignore.
Hodgson was at Anfield on Sunday and he must have noted how impressive a performance Rio Ferdinand delivered in dealing with Luis Suarez and his Liverpool colleagues.
He was terrific, his composure on the ball and his awareness in dealing with the threat posed by the Uruguayan are exactly the qualities England will need when they meet Robert Lewandowski and the rest of the Polish forward line.
Still got it: Rio Ferdinand (centre) shone for Manchester United against Liverpool
Only there is a problem. There is a problem in the fact that the relationship between Hodgson and Ferdinand is not much better than it was between Fabio Capello and the player he stripped of the England captaincy to reinstate Terry.
There is also the fact that there has been no contact between Hodgson and Ferdinand since the England manager telephoned the 33-year-old to inform him of his decision to select Terry ahead of him for Euro 2012 for ‘football reasons’.
Ferdinand never seriously believed that, and when Martin Kelly was then called up as a late replacement for the injured Cahill he expressed his scepticism by publicly questioning those ‘football reasons’ on Twitter.
Understandably, Ferdinand felt he had missed out on selection for the European Championship because his brother, Anton, was central to Terry’s court case.
Hodgson made his choice because he knew it would be impossible to have both players in the same travelling party, and Ferdinand felt it wrong that he was the one to miss out.
Sidelined: Ferdinand (left) has not played for England since summer 2011
If there was already tension, Ferdinand’s equally public criticism of Ashley Cole added to Hodgson’s problems. The ‘choc ice’ tweet — a response to Cole’s support of Terry at Westminster Magistrates Court — landed Ferdinand in trouble with the FA to the tune of 45,000 and further complicated life inside the England camp.
In fairness to Ferdinand, he probably thought his 82nd cap would never come when he was overlooked for Euro 2012. He said as much in the tweet he posted in his response to Hodgson naming his squad for the tournament. ‘Absolutely loved playing for England,’ he said.
At the time Hodgson spoke highly of Ferdinand. ‘He was very gracious and he wished myself and the team the very best of luck for the tournament,’ he said.
But Hodgson would not have appreciated the ‘footballing reasons’ tweet that followed and the fact there has been no attempt to communicate with Ferdinand since points to something of an issue between the two.
D-day: John Terry arrives for his FA hearing after retiring from England
Ferdinand, it is understood, was
wounded in the summer but wounded too by Hodgson’s continued support of
Terry. In Berne in August the England manager spoke of how hopeful he
was that the Chelsea defender would escape punishment at this week’s FA
disciplinary hearing at Wembley, and even on Monday he expressed his
disappointment that Terry had chosen to retire.
At the same time there has been no mention of Ferdinand. Even after Terry had to withdraw from the Ukraine game with injury, not once was Ferdinand presented as a possible alternative by Hodgson.
Ferdinand has said he believes his international career is over. ‘I said that if I was not playing for England in the summer, I did not see myself playing in the future,’ he said last month. ‘But I would never retire from international football. I won’t be miffed if I’m not in the England squad, though, because I don’t see myself being part of it any more.’
Only he should be part of it now. For next month’s World Cup double header — there is a game at home to San Marino prior to the trip to Warsaw — and beyond.
Hodgson might have his issues with Ferdinand and Ferdinand might have his issues with Hodgson but moves need to be made to heal any rift in time for the next squad announcement.
This could be where Gary Neville becomes useful given his past as a United team-mate of Ferdinand. It was Neville, after all, who so memorably leapt to Ferdinand’s defence when he missed a drugs test and his position in Hodgson’s coaching staff could be to England’s advantage in resolving this situation.
Bridges need to be rebuilt, because a failure to do so could leave Hodgson regretting his handling of the whole sorry saga come that night in Warsaw next month.