John Terry sought to draw a line last night under fears about the hamstring injury which threatens to render Rio Ferdinand's absence from the European Championship even more questionable, though even as he did so the name of Ashley Cole was added to Roy Hodgson's list of defensive preoccupations.
"I'm fit. I trained today," said Terry, who did participate fully yesterday at the stadium of Hutnik Krakow, in the local Nowa Huta district here, having been limited to a more partial work-out on Wednesday. It was Cole's failure to train or to turn up with the rest of the squad members for a civic function hosted by the Mayor of Krakow, yards from the team hotel last night, which creates the latest cause for concern.
Initially, the suggestion was that the left-back was laid low by a stomach upset, though another source suggested last night that an ankle injury was the problem – and the Football Association would not comment on that. Cole has a long-standing chronic ankle problem which sometimes prevents him from training for 48 hours after a game and his presence at training today is in some doubt. A week ago, Hodgson's defence – Glen Johnson, Gary Cahill, Terry and Cole – seemed to be the one certainty he would be bringing to the banks of the Vistula. Now it is anything but.
England's closed training session at Hutnik's ground also had Hodgson experimenting with the idea of Phil Jagielka, rather than Joleon Lescott, operating alongside Terry on the right side of central defence, owing to the fact that both Terry and the left-footed Lescott are more naturally inclined to operate on the other side. Ferdinand's presence would create less concern about who plays where. The other partnership tried out yesterday was Lescott and Jagielka – a sign that an element of doubt does exist around Terry's fitness. The Chelsea player insisted last night that he was "more than happy to play on the right side of defence".
Danny Welbeck's deployment yesterday morning in front of Ashley Young on the training pitch Stewart Downing described as "quite good" suggests that the greater defensive rigidity Andy Carroll provided in Norway two weeks ago may not tempt Hodgson to go with the Carroll-Young combination in the Donbass Arena against France on Monday. But the uncertainty surrounding the date of Jermain Defoe's return to the camp leaves Hodgson with only three front men for the first two games.
The FA believes that the urgent need to discuss the France game will kill off the Ferdinand controversy when Hodgson finally sits down to talk publicly. The manager will take the same line as his chairman, David Bernstein, who has refused to discuss "historical" decisions. The governing body's view is that after Hodgson refuses requests to elaborate on the "footballing reasons" for Ferdinand's omission, the discussion will, of necessity, move on to Monday's game.
The France coach, Laurent Blanc, stirred the pot yesterday in making the latest intervention in the Ferdinand affair to declare that "from afar the choice not to take him isn't a sporting choice". Privately, there were wry smiles at the FA over that and Blanc's entry into this controversy is risky. He is the manager who last year backed plans for a quota of white players at French academies, though avoided having to resign as a consequence. "You have the impression the academies really train the same prototype of players, big, strong, powerful," Blanc said back then. "What is there that is currently big, strong, powerful? The blacks."
The most uplifting discussion of the day came when Joe Hart described the impact on him of the encounter he and his team-mates had last week with Zigi Shipper and Ben Helfgott, representatives of the Holocaust Educational Trust. The England players met them ahead of a visit to Auschwitz today by Hodgson, Hart, Wayne Rooney, Theo Walcott, Leighton Baines, Jack Buckland and Phil Jagielka – who is of Polish descent. Captain Steven Gerrard will not be in attendance as he has visited Auschwitz before. Other players will visit Oskar Schindler's Factory here.
Hart was momentarily affected by emotion as he attempted to articulate the effect Shipper's and Helfgott's testimony had on him. "It was absolutely fascinating, without sounding like I mean it in a sick way," Hart said. "You know what I mean when I say it's fascinating."
Shipper was confined to the Lodz ghetto with his grandparents, deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and later to another concentration camp near Danzig. He was on a death march from which he never expected to return when liberated by the British Army. Helfgott was at the Buchenwald and Schlieben camps, transported to Theresienstadt and liberated by the Russian Army.
"They weren't angry," Hart said of the men. "They just had that message of how you can be a better person. They spoke at the end about what roles we have as footballers and what sort of message we can hand out. It got me."
The message to England's squad had been "that a lot of people look up to you. You forget that. Treat people as you meet them. Don't judge." Hart agreed footballers have reputations for not doing that. "Some people. But what little power you have, you have to try and use it positively." It was a welcome blast of perspective into the uncomfortable England bubble.
Disrupted season: Jagielka's record
Phil Jagielka missed a large chuck of this season through injury after being an almost ever-present in previous campaigns. He sat out most of January and February with a knee problem, missing 10 games, and was also left on the bench for the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Liverpool with a recurrence of the injury. He has made eight starts for England and just two in the last 15 months.
2011-12 Games played by Everton 47
2011-12 Games played by Jagielka 33Reuse content