Roy Hodgson explains his choice for Euro 2012 but the Rio Ferdinand - John Terry saga won't go away
England manager's optimism turns to frustration as he is asked to defend his central selection but says that the Chelsea captain has assured him he needn't have any concerns
Roy Hodgson responded to one question yesterday about his decision to select John Terry for his Euro 2012 squad and leave out Rio Ferdinand with mild exasperation that the subject was attracting such a lot of attention. "There are 23 men in the squad, we're preparing for the future, and yet we're discussing one man until the cows come home."
It was not a phrase that would have been familiar to his predecessor Fabio Capello and yet the issue itself, the fraught nature of Terry's involvement with Ferdinand and the rest of this England squad is something that the Italian would have recognised only too well.
The Ferdinand and Terry conundrum is the tale that will not go away. It was the central issue to the selection of this squad and however much Hodgson tried to downplay the ramifications of Terry's court case for allegedly abusing Ferdinand's brother, Anton, in his thinking, it remains the elephant in the room as far as Euro 2012 is concerned.
Hodgson was at Cobham on Tuesday to see the England players in Chelsea's squad and his conversation with Terry ended with him telling the man twice stripped of the England captaincy that he had decided to include him in the squad. Hodgson would not divulge any details on that meeting but Terry is understood to have left it in tears. Yes, even the general of Chelsea's defence and escapee of countless tabloid scandals has a breaking point. He must have feared the worst.
Yesterday, Hodgson changed tack dramatically on his approach to the Terry-Ferdinand problem. Having said at his introductory press conference on 1 May that he would speak to both players before making a decision on whether they thought they could co-exist in the same squad, he said the decision to leave out Ferdinand was for "purely footballing reasons".
Hodgson said that Kyle Walker's injury had meant he needed a centre-back who could cover as a right-back as he had decided to take seven defenders instead of the usual eight. He did that because he needed to give himself the scope to pick an extra attacking player in light of Wayne Rooney's two-game suspension at the start of the tournament. As a consequence, his seventh defender became Phil Jones, Ferdinand's Manchester United team-mate.
Hodgson did not even try to pin the reason for Ferdinand's omission on the player's injury problems. Ferdinand has, after all, played just three of England's 19 games since he broke down before the last World Cup finals. But then Steven Gerrard's playing record – 34 minutes for England since November 2010 – is hardly much better and he was made captain yesterday. "I'd be lying if I said that [Ferdinand's fitness] was the major reason for not selecting him," Hodgson said.
"I can't insult your intelligence and say I wasn't aware of the situation [between Terry and Ferdinand]. Everyone knows a situation has arisen. But I have tried to put it as far from my mind as possible. I'd like to think that, if I honestly believed the two of them were right to take or neither were right to take, I'd have done that. I can only repeat that I've juggled a lot with the squad in my mind. It's not an easy decision to make."
It leaves Hodgson with Terry in the squad and the baggage that he brings with him. He may not have Ferdinand and Terry in the same team hotel but he does have a player who has lost the England captaincy twice and faces a court case on 9 July that could have a profound effect on his career, not to mention his reputation. Did Hodgson fear that could be a problem for Terry?
"No. He's had that hanging over him for a long period of time, and it hasn't distracted him from lifting the FA Cup, reaching the Champions League final," he said. "I know how committed he is to England. No one has doubted his desire for the England cause. That wasn't a concern. I discussed lots of things with him, but I'd rather keep that conversation private. I raised all the issues I had in my mind, and he assured me I needn't have any concerns."
He had not been given a lead either way by the Football Association on whether he should pick Terry, just that – obviously – he could not make him captain with the FA having stripped him of that role in February. But picking Terry requires his manager also to defend the player against his worst excesses and that is what Hodgson found himself doing yesterday, conceding that Terry had done "something stupid in the [Champions League] semi-final, but things happen in football.
"The moral judgment has been made on him twice in the past," Hodgson said. "He lost his captaincy with Capello on a moral decision, if you like, and his captaincy with England on a moral decision. I didn't need to add my ideas on that. Basically, I wanted to take a group of players that I think gives us a chance of doing well in the tournament. I decided John Terry should be one of the centre-halves. I hope he can put the other matters to one side. He'll get questions: let's hope he can answer them."
Roy's Boys: England Euro 2012 squad
Joe Hart (Man City, 25/17 caps), Rob Green (West Ham United, 32/11) John Ruddy (Norwich City, 25/0)
Ashley Cole (Chelsea, 31/93) John Terry (Chelsea, 31/72) Glen Johnson (Liverpool, 27/35) Phil Jones (Man United, 20/4) Leyton Baines (Everton, 27/7) Joleon Lescott (Man City, 29/14) Gary Cahill (Chelsea, 26/8)
Steven Gerrard (capt; Liverpool, 31/90) Frank Lampard (Chelsea, 33/90) Scott Parker (Spurs, 31/11) Gareth Barry (Man City, 31/52) James Milner (Man City, 26/24) Stewart Downing (Liverpool, 27/33) Theo Walcott (Arsenal, 23/22) Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal, 18/0) Ashley Young (Man United, 26/19)
Wayne Rooney (Man United, 26/73) Danny Welbeck (Man United, 21/4) Andy Carroll (Liverpool, 23/3) Jermain Defoe (Spurs, 29/46)
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