Roy Hodgson declared last night that he had not given a last-minute recall of Rio Ferdinand to the England ranks the slightest consideration, though he acknowledged that he would have to have been living "on the planet Mars" not to have been aware of the John Terry race case that would have made a call-up potentially inflammatory.
Hodgson, who revealed that John Terry and Ashley Cole will face France in England's opening Euro 2012 match, against France in Donetsk tomorrow night, expanded for the first time on the "footballing reasons" which he says led exclusively to Ferdinand's omission from his squad.
"I'll tell you one of the things," he said. "When you've played 81 times already, but only a couple of times in the last few years and had a lot of injuries, I don't think those players go as travellers. They go as one of the first names on the teamsheet. I had to be convinced that, if I was going to take Rio, he'd be one of the first names on the teamsheet. I couldn't be convinced that would be the case."
In the last two years, Ferdinand has played two full England games plus the first half of a Wembley friendly against France. Hodgson resisted any temptation to voice frustration with the 33-year-old's representative, Jamie Moralee, describing as "disgraceful" the decision to overlook him when Gary Cahill was forced out through injury. Hodgson said: "That was a tough call. Now I have to live, no doubt in this tournament and maybe for years ahead, with the fact people have said other things, his representatives have said other things. It's a fact of life."
Hodgson revealed that his first thought when Cahill's broken jaw was confirmed last Saturday was whether the Tottenham Hotspur right-back Kyle Walker's toe injury might have cleared up, allowing him to be drafted in as competition for Glen Johnson. Instead, he took Martin Kelly – who was feeling a fever and didn't train yesterday - from his standby squad.
Hodgson said he had selected his side for the Donbass Arena and would tell his players tonight, even it it might leak out to the benefit of France coach Laurent Blanc by tomorrow morning.
James Milner did not train yesterday, as a precaution, because he damaged a heel in training on Friday and the need of padding on it meant keeping a boot off. The forecast is for 30C in Donetsk on Monday and Blanc's players will wear ice jackets at half-time. "I don't know about the artificial jackets. That is interesting. We haven't gone that far," Hodgson said.Reuse content