Rio Ferdinand is back in England squad for the forthcoming World Cup double-header.
The Manchester United defender has not played for his country since collecting cap number 81 in June 2011, when the Three Lions had to come back from 2-0 down to rescue a Euro 2012 qualifying point at home to Switzerland. His exclusion since, according to Roy Hodgson, has been down to ‘footballing reasons’, which is a bizarre claim considering he has been in splendid form for his club over the past couple of seasons, which have seen him make 64 appearances in all competitions.
It is more likely that his lengthy absence was linked to John Terry. Leading up to Euro 2012 the former England captain was facing allegations of racially abusing Ferdinand’s brother Anton, of Queens Park Rangers. It was suggested that having both of them in the squad could lead to problems within the camp, and ultimately, it was the Chelsea captain who was selected.
Terry has since, of course, retired from international duty, and although it is believed friction still exists between Ferdinand and Ashley Cole, who gave evidence on behalf of his Chelsea pal during the aforementioned trial, Hodgson has attempted to play this down.
“They were very good friends but we’re talking about an England football team, not individuals,” he said on Thursday. “I would expect the pair of them to do their job. I don’t envisage any problems. If there are I’ll deal with them and I’m hoping the long-term friendship will re-emerge.”
On his decision to recall Ferdinand, the England coach has praised the recent form of the 34-year-old. With Everton’s Phil Jagielka sidelined with an ankle injury, Joleon Lescott out of favour at Manchester City and Gary Cahill struggling for form at Stamford Bridge, it is highly likely that the United player will start in the two away matches in San Marino and Montenegro.
“I’ve been following him for quite a while now and must have seen United play for our five times in the last five weeks,” said Hodgson. “He’s playing well, his team are doing extremely well and this is the moment to select him because he deserves it on current form and hopefully he can help us win the next two matches because that’s the most important thing.”
Ferdinand will be 35 by the time the World Cup Finals come around next year. Should England qualify for the tournament, Hodgson insists the experienced former West Ham United and Leeds United man could play a key role for England in Rio: “If Rio Ferdinand is still playing in 2014 like he is now he is going to be major candidate for the squad.”
Elsewhere, West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper Ben Foster has ended his self-imposed international exile to earn a recall. Tottenham Hotspur duo Michael Dawson and Scott Parker have also been named, but there is no place for Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere who has been ruled out of action for up to three weeks after picking up an ankle injury last weekend.
England squad to face San Marino (22 March) and Montenegro (26 March):
Goalkeepers: Foster, Hart, Forster; Defenders: Baines, Cahill, Cole, Dawson, Ferdinand, Johnson, Smalling, Walker; Midfielders: Carrick, Cleverley, Gerrard, Lampard, Lennon, Milner, Osman, Parker, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Young; Forwards: Defoe, Rooney, Sturridge, Welbeck.