Roy Hodgson has cracked down on his England players' sponsor appearances, telling five of his squad to cancel a proposed Nike event in London yesterday in order to rest ahead of the squad's trip to Poland tomorrow for their Euro 2012 base camp.
James Milner, Jordan Henderson, Joleon Lescott, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had all been scheduled to make an appearance in Shoreditch, east London, on behalf of their boot sponsor Nike. They were told by Hodgson before they dispersed after Saturday's win over Belgium that they should tell Nike they could not attend.
The England team meet this lunchtime with the issue of Rio Ferdinand's continued omission from the squad, despite the injury to Gary Cahill, continuing to hang over them. Despite strongly-worded criticism of Hodgson and the Football Association by the Ferdinand camp for the decision to call up Martin Kelly rather than Ferdinand after the Belgium game, the governing body did not respond yesterday.
Ferdinand has made no effort to distance himself from the criticism of the FA and Hodgson made by Jamie Moralee, who works for the agency which represents Ferdinand's commercial interests on Sunday. All that the 33-year-old was prepared to clarify yesterday was his feelings towards the England team. He tweeted last night: "Just so we don't get it twisted ere [sic] ... I'll be in a pub somewhere supporting England this summer! Love the lads!"
The FA is aware that the Ferdinand issue is likely to dominate the agenda when the players give their first press conferences of the week in Krakow tomorrow. The original reason cited for Ferdinand's omission by Hodgson – "football reasons" – remains the governing body's explanation although it understand that the England manager will come under increasing pressure to explain that.
Meanwhile, Hodgson was eager that the players use the time he gave them after Saturday's game until today's lunchtime meet-up at the Grove Hotel in Hertfordshire to rest and recuperate ahead of this month's tournament in Poland and Ukraine. The England staff had become concerned that sponsors were keen to cram as much as possible into the last few days before England embark for their base in Krakow.
The players were given time off after the game against Norway 10 days ago and the FA, as well as Hodgson, noted that many of them used the time to fulfil private sponsors' events, many of them connected with media interviews.
In the past under Fabio Capello, the players have been away with England in training camp, and under the watchful eye of the FA, from the moment they meet up in the build-up to tournaments.
Hodgson's different approach, allowing the players two breaks to return to their families during the build-up to Euro 2012, has proved popular with the squad, but the staff are still keen that the players use their days off to rest. In the case of Henderson, there was concern at the FA that he would be doing an interview on the delicate issue of his inclusion in the squad outside the auspices of the governing body.
Hodgson's squad meet again at lunchtime today and are expected to train this afternoon at Arsenal's London Colney ground before they fly to Krakow tomorrow.
The squad will attend a welcome event laid on by the mayor of the city on Thursday and a group of England players, along with some FA staff and officials, are expected to visit the Auschwitz and Birkenau sites, near to Krakow, well in advance of the first game against France on Monday.
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