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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
A boy holds a chick during the Russian National Agricultural Exhibition Golden Autumn 2014 in Moscow on October 9, 2014.
Life and Style
love + sex
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United 1 player ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot