Damned either way: Roy Hodgson couldn't win on Rio Ferdinand selection dilemma

England manager is getting it in the neck over Rio's call-up but, asks Sam Wallace, how else could he have handled it?

There was a time when an England manager handed a list of players to a secretary and the chosen few were sent letters curtly addressing them by their surnames and outlining the details of their rendezvous. There were no chauffeur-driven cars to pick them up, or custom-built Football Association centres like Bond-villain lairs in the English countryside. You got there under your own bloody steam.

These days, organising a squad of 26 footballers to fulfil an international fixture can seem about as complicated as negotiating the bail-out strategy for the Cypriot economy.

Could Roy Hodgson have called Rio Ferdinand last week to check if playing an international, or even two, would be in keeping with his self-styled "intricate" training programme? Well, yes, maybe, but do not think that approach would not have come with its own set of tedious problems.

When Hodgson met his coaching staff eight days ago to discuss the squad for the World Cup qualifiers, Ferdinand was not yet a certainty. Even if he was, and Hodgson had made contact, would that have been enough time to adapt Ferdinand's training programme to enable him to play for England?

What if Hodgson had told the player, the news had leaked and then Ferdinand had subsequently been unable to make it? Whoever was named in that squad would not just be well aware of their status as second choice, there would also be the lingering suspicion that some players were being treated differently to others.

The counter-argument to that is Joleon Lescott and Steven Caulker, called up to replace Michael Dawson and Ferdinand, are under no doubt that they are second choice, so what is the difference? The difference is that the England manager, as much as he can to the best of his abilities, tries to treat his squad equally and, after that, a replacement is a replacement.

Had Hodgson tipped Ferdinand off he was due a recall, the England manager might not have made life any easier for himself. It might not even have given Ferdinand time to accommodate the games within his schedule. One way or another, Hodgson was damned if he did call and damned if he didn't.

In the end, he chose the simplest and fairest way. Hodgson told the players and their clubs the composition of his squad at just about the same time as he announced it to the public. Not the most sophisticated strategy but one that would at least stand up to scrutiny in the inevitable storm of analysis and recriminations that followed.

In the immediate aftermath of Ferdinand's withdrawal yesterday there was the usual rush in some quarters to diminish Hodgson and to portray him as a blunderer. It was even compared to the failure to call up Michael Carrick for Euro 2012 over the misunderstanding that the player had retired – a completely different scenario.

At certain points in the life cycle of the England team, people grasp that the manager's job is preposterously hard. There is sympathy for him and the mood is with the poor bloke in charge rather than the 23 egos he must marshal.

Unfortunately for Hodgson, he is currently copping it, with little thought given to just how sensitive these superstars can be or just how much self-interest governs the club game – and that is not a snipe at Manchester United, it refers to the whole lot of them.

It used to be that it was the impossible job when it came to England winning tournaments. These days, it is a painful struggle to get a group of them under the same hotel roof just to play a game to qualify for the damn thing.

For Euro 2012, Hodgson decided Terry and Ferdinand were incompatible in the same squad and selected one – who happened to be the nation's less-popular choice. Last week, he picked Ferdinand on the basis, partly one assumes, that in a recent BBC interview Ferdinand said he would pack his bags and go "straight there" if asked.

If only it was so simple. Just a reminder: in England's last game they beat Brazil at Wembley, the first time the national team had beaten the five-times world champions in 23 years. Hodgson might be wondering this morning if anyone remembers that.

News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
News
David Ryall in Harry Potter
people
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Sport
Wayne Rooney warms up ahead of the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White Hart Lane
football
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015