Small incidents can have untold repercussions in all aspects of life, not least in football. A perfect example of one such incident occured at Wembley Stadium on saturday evening. Dries Mertens’ shove on Gary Cahill appeared petulant but not significant upon first glance, but that was until Cahill could not continue, much to the discontent of Roy Hodgson, his team and a nation of nervous onlookers. Mertens, with one push ended Cahill’s chances of representing his country in the European Championships, at least until 2016, as the Chelsea centre-half had suffered fractures to his jaw in two places thanks to one moment of idiocy in a ‘friendly’. However, this is not a piece about Mertens and his show of poor sportsmanship, he has apologised and I am sure that had he known the consequences of his actions, he would have behaved differently, nor is it an article lamenting England’s luck with injuries in the build-up to major tournaments. This is an article about the chain of events which has effectively ended Rio Ferdinand’s England career, at least under Roy Hodgson.
Rio Ferdinand must have been disappointed enough to be left in the wilderness after the initial squad was announced but when Roy Hodgson chose to replace a centre-back, Gary Cahill with Martin Kelly, a right back with 2 minutes of international experience, this must have really irked Rio for him to tweet ‘What reasons?????!!!’ to nearly 3 million followers, 2,999,999 of whom would probably have known straight away that Rio was reacting angrily to the announcement from the England camp. It is clear that Hodgson’s ‘footballing reasons’ are that Rio can’t play football on the same team as John Terry rather than anything actually football related and if Hodgson feels that Ferdinand is no longer equipped to play for England, I would have to disagree with Hodgson because if Sir Alex Ferguson feels he is good enough to play 38 times for Manchester United last season in all competitions, I would argue that qualifies him to play centre-half for England over Martin Kelly who made 12 league appearances for Liverpool at right-back, although he can play in the middle of defence. I admit, Martin Kelly has a lot of potential and he has impressed me ever since his first Liverpool start against Lyon in the Champions League in 2009 but I can’t justify Roy’s decision. Ferdinand has tournament experience rivaled only by Steven Gerrard and for this reason, I feel that his inclusion in exchange for Cahill would have been a case of ‘better late than never’. England are now left with a delicate John Terry, Joleon Lescott and inexperienced Phil Jagielka and Phil Jones.
Looking to the future is obviously one of Hodgson philosophies going into Euro 2012 but it is difficult to see how Phil Jagielka is England’s future as he is 30 in August and therefore, that argument is flawed with regard to Rio’s exclusion. Rio Ferdinand is absent from the England squad for reasons beyond football and it is obvious to every single England fan. I think this has taken some integrity away from Roy Hodgson as he is now going to be seen as cold and disrespectful as it is not just Rio Ferdinand but Micah Richards, also. I believe John Terry is, by far, England’s best centre-back but it is not Rio Ferdinand who has done anything wrong. If John Terry is found guilty of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand and that saga really was the issue with Ferdinand’s omission, Terry’s inclusion ahead of Ferdinand is going to look completely unfair and disgraceful. Ferdinand’s agent, Jamie Moralee, may have spoken out of turn, in the eyes of some pundits, but his key ‘lack of respect’ argument is completely fair. Rio Ferdinand has done so much for England and Manchester United throughout the last 10 years of his career and, the missed drugs test fiasco aside, he has been a model professional and to be cast out by Roy Hodgson in favour of John Terry who, in many respects, is the antithesis of Ferdinand is unjust. I am not saying that Ferdinand is still in his prime or isn’t prone to injury from time to time but what I am saying and the reason I wrote this piece is Ferdinand has been one of England’s most reliable central defenders over the last few decades and to be treated with such a lack of respect and to be left in the cold after 81 caps, I am questioning Roy Hodgson’s logic.
Who is to say whether this will affect England in Poland and Ukraine, I certainly hope not but if it does then i am sure the many England fans who love to refer to hindsight will be citing Rio Ferdinand’s exclusion as a factor. Who knows whether England will be forced to use one of their ample full-back options as a make-shift centre-half or whether Terry will lead England to glory, I really, really don’t but for now I feel that Ferdinand should have been included in the squad. I sympathise with a man who was put his body on the line for England in the past. As I said at the beginning of this piece, small incidents can have massive repercussions and one more prime example of this may prove to be that words forming in John Terry’s mouth in the heat of the moment last October could lead to England’s football team not achieving what they have the potential to achieve, yet again. Ferdinand wouldn’t have started if I were England manager, Terry and Lescott would have, but he would, without question, warrant a place in my squad.
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