Ferdinand's downfall opens door for Cahill

United defender's omission suggests Capello is looking to the future as England meet up ahead of Montenegro test on Friday

In recent times, the partnership at the heart of England's defence has tended to change less regularly than the Prime Minister, or the Governor of the Bank of England. Once in place they stay there for a long time, so what seems like the current phasing out of Rio Ferdinand from that role is not without significance.

Ferdinand has been a mainstay of the England team since around 2001 when he made the position alongside Sol Campbell his own and kept it through injury, an eight-month ban imposed by the Football Association, two World Cups, five qualifying campaigns and the one occasion when he was dropped by Sven Goran Eriksson in October 2005.

Campbell eventually lost his place to John Terry after Ferdinand came back from his ban for a missed drugs test in 2003. But suddenly it sounds like the bell is also tolling for Ferdinand too, this week left out of the squad to face Montenegro on Friday, despite having featured in the last three games for Manchester United.

It was his most recent role, as a substitute for the Norwich City game, which set the alarm bells off in the Fabio Capello camp. Ferdinand played against Stoke City 11 days ago when he was beaten by Peter Crouch for the equaliser. Against Basel at Old Trafford, Capello's assistant Franco Baldini watched a shaky performance alongside Phil Jones as United conceded three to the Swiss team.

On Saturday against Norwich he was on the bench behind Jones and Jonny Evans and the feeling in the England camp was that if Ferguson was not prepared to start Ferdinand, then why should they pick him ahead of the 19-year-old Englishman who is now doing his job?

As ever with Ferdinand and United it is difficult to tell the difference between whether the player is being rested to manage long-term injury problems or simply left out because there are better options. He was left out of the England squad to face Bulgaria and Wales last month, but then he had missed games for United with an injury picked up against West Bromwich Albion on the first day of the season.

Ferdinand will be 33 next month and made his debut in November 1997, a remarkable 14 years ago. Although 81 caps is not as high a return as could have been expected for having spanned such a significant period, that is a lot longer than most last in international football. No one, however, goes on for ever and Ferdinand appeared to refer to his omission yesterday on Twitter when he joked about training with his young son's team... "if selected".

After the disappointment of injuring his knee in the first England training session at the World Cup in South Africa last year, Ferdinand has played just three times for his country and only one of those has been a Euro 2012 qualifier. In the meantime Capello took the captaincy away from him in an episode that could not have been more chaotic.

The message from the Capello camp is emphatically that they are not holding Ferdinand's unwillingness to talk to Capello at Old Trafford in the directors' box as a factor in his most recent omission from the squad. It is said to be purely down to doubts about Ferdinand's form and fitness.

It means that among the current defenders it will be Gary Cahill, of Bolton Wanderers, who is favourite to start alongside Terry in Podgorica on Friday. Cahill's Bolton are bottom of the Premier League and have conceded 21 goals this season but Capello's feeling is that Cahill did well enough against Bulgaria and Wales to warrant a place.

The most likely threat to Cahill, and Terry in the long term, is Jones, even if he did show signs of wobbling against Basel after a strong start to his United career. With Glen Johnson and Chris Smalling injured, Jones is a possibility to start the game at right-back. Phil Jagielka also gives the England manager that option and could adapt to the position if necessary, with Spurs' Kyle Walker and Manchester City's Micah Richards also in the squad.

There are no injuries in the squad, which met up yesterday, and all of them are expected to train this morning at Arsenal's London Colney headquarters. Bobby Zamora will be back among the squad for the first time, picked by Capello because the England manager believes the Fulham striker is the kind of player who can connect the play well and create chances for other strikers and midfielders.

For Cahill and Jones it represents a major opportunity to lay down a marker and make the position alongside Terry their own. Reputations can be made quickly and there is the feeling that this time a rare place has opened up in the middle of the England defence.

Centre of attention: Will Cahill or Jones partner Terry?

Gary Cahill: Age 25, Caps 5, Goals 1

Rio Ferdinand: Age 32, Caps 81, Goals 3

John Terry: Age 30, Caps 70, Goals 6

Phil Jones: Age 19, Caps 0, Goals 0

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
film
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
News
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
people
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

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie