Rio Ferdinand has withdrawn from the England squad for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers.
The Manchester United defender appeared to be on the verge of ending his absence from the international squad, which stretches back to June 2011 when he featured against Switzerland to win the last of his 81 caps. Roy Hodgson had since declined to select him, supposedly for ‘footballing reasons’, although the general consensus is that the John Terry episode with Anton Ferdinand was the real reason.
The Chelsea man was alleged to have racially abused Rio’s brother during a Premier League clash against Queens Park Rangers back in October 2011, and fearing a negative impact of having both senior players in the national squad, Hodgson opted to pick Terry who was given the nod as preparations for Euro 2012 continued.
With the Stamford Bridge skipper now retired from international football, Ferdinand was last week called up for the qualifying double header against San Marino and Montenegro. The England coach insisted this call-up was due to the 34-year-old’s recent good form, and even suggested that a place in the World Cup squad was there for the taking.
Speaking ahead of the visit of Reading on Saturday, Sir Alex Ferguson, the United manager, revealed his surprise to discover his number five back in the fold, and detailed the potential problems the player could experience by making his return.
“The issue is his whole preparation for football today,” the Scot said. “It involves treatment, it involves rest, it involves heavy days followed by some light days followed by some easy days. Our preparation for Rio in games has been fantastic. Our medical staff and fitness lads have done a great job with him. That is the issue.
“Because he hasn’t been playing international football, when the international breaks have come along, we have detailed all the things he has to do: when he trains, when his treatments come along, therefore it is a disruption to his normal preparation. Of course it (call-up) is a concern because he (Ferdinand) knows the procedures we have to go through.”
And on Monday it was confirmed by Ferdinand that he had indeed withdrawn from the game, citing his current training regime as the reason. He also made it clear that he has not retired from international football, and that he wishes to be considered for future matches.
“It was important for me to be able to speak with Roy face to face and explain the situation, and one thing I made clear was that my passion and commitment to represent my country is as strong as ever,” he said. “It is disappointing that I won’t be able to play a part in the upcoming games but I told Roy that I want to continue to be available for England and I look forward to working with him in the future.”
It would appear that if Hodgson decides to call upon Ferdinand in the future, he may have to take the unusual step of giving plenty of prior notice to allow for a change of his training regime. If he takes this approach and Ferdinand still withholds his services, then it would add weight to the rumours that relations between the pair are, at least for the time being, beyond breaking point as a consequence of the Terry saga.
Tottenham Hotspur’s Steven Caulker, meanwhile, has been drafted in from the Under-21 squad as a replacement. This is the second defensive change forced upon Hodgson, who has also called up Manchester City’s Joleon Lescott in place of Michael Dawson who has a hamstring problem. Another Spurs player, Aaron Lennon, has also withdrawn through injury.