Roy Hodgson is weighing up the possibility of bringing Rio Ferdinand back into the England squad this month, as the manager deals with two key absentees in central defence for the World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro this month.
Hodgson has maintained in the past that "football reasons" alone have dictated his decisions. He has said he wants to give younger players the opportunity although he has always maintained he is not prepared to close the door on a return for Ferdinand one day. With John Terry now retired, Hodgson's options are reduced.
Both Phil Jagielka and Chris Smalling are out with injury for the World Cup qualifiers and Hodgson was at Old Trafford again on Sunday ahead of naming his squad on Thursday.
Ferdinand has made 24 starts for Manchester United this season, including both legs of the Champions League tie against Real Madrid and Sunday's 2-2 draw in the FA Cup against Chelsea. The Ferdinand issue is one of most delicate around the England squad especially given Hodgson's decision to take Terry over the Manchester United defender to Euro 2012, when the Chelsea captain was awaiting trial for racial abuse of Ferdinand's brother, Anton. The England manager would also have to factor in Ferdinand's recent history with Ashley Cole, another consequence of the Terry trial last summer in which the Chelsea man was acquitted. That comes before concerns over whether Ferdinand would be capable of playing in both games over five days, the likelihood being that if selected he would only be picked for the second match in Podgorica.
Ferdinand, who last played for England in June 2011, seems likely to escape any further Football Association disciplinary action over his shove to the back of Fernando Torres during the draw with Chelsea.
The Newcastle United defender Steven Taylor has emerged as a possibility for Hodgson's squad. Hodgson's coaching staff have made enquiries about the fitness of Taylor, 27, who is uncapped by England. The defender missed two months of the season over Christmas with injury but has tied down a regular place in the side since the end of January and is now a contender.
It seems certain Hodgson will select Gary Cahill and Joleon Lescott even though the latter has struggled to command a place in the Manchester City side this season. He started against Barnsley in the FA Cup quarter-final 5-0 victory on Saturday. Taylor has been selected for one squad in the past, by Steve McClaren for the friendly against Germany at Wembley in August 2007 for which the player was an unused substitute. He is a former captain of the England Under-21s, winning 29 caps for the junior side.
Among those to fill the two other centre-half positions after Cahill and Lescott are Michael Dawson, Ryan Shawcross and Steven Caulker. Dawson was last capped in a Euro 2012 qualifier against Wales two years ago. Shawcross made his debut against Sweden in November but after a difficult 16 minutes against Zlatan Ibrahimovic lost his place to Smalling, a Hodgson favourite, in the England squad to face Brazil last month.
The Newcastle manager, Alan Pardew, said after Sunday's 2-1 defeat of Stoke that Taylor deserved a chance. "I think they really do need to have a look at him at centre-half," Pardew said. "It's a problem position for England. Steven Taylor was immense against Stoke, and he was brilliant against Peter Crouch. He gave a performance of England standards."
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