Roy Hodgson says priority is to sort out John Terry-Rio Ferdinand saga

New England manager given four-year deal and admits there are thorny issues to deal with

Roy Hodgson said yesterday that one of his first tasks as England manager was to resolve any potential differences between John Terry and Rio Ferdinand over the race case involving the latter's brother Anton that threatens to divide the squad ahead of the European Championship.

The West Bromwich Albion manager signed a four-year contract at Wembley yesterday, having recognised that there was an "unbelievable" amount of work to be done in the "40 days and 40 nights" before England play their first game of Euro 2012 against France in Donetsk.

Central to that will be discovering whether Rio Ferdinand can play alongside Terry, who is in court on 9 July to answer the charge of racially aggravated abuse against Ferdinand's brother Anton. Hodgson said yesterday that he would try to speak to the two players in advance of him naming the squad for the European Championship on 14 May.

Hodgson said: "I'll have to get in touch with John and Rio to speak with them, hopefully face to face, and find out where they are in this situation. And not just those two. I'll have to speak to as many senior players as I can. Until such time as I've actually spoken to them and found out where they stand in relation to the current situation, it would be wrong of me to comment."

The Football Association chairman, David Bernstein, refused even to discuss other candidates for the job, and did not mention Harry Redknapp, the previous favourite for the post, by name in either of his two press conferences yesterday. He said that the four men on the Club England board came to their decision one month ago but left their official approach to West Bromwich until last weekend because they believed the club would have blocked any attempt to speak to Hodgson before then.

Hodgson said that he had great "empathy" for Redknapp's situation but that the Tottenham Hotspur manager, who was overlooked for the job, would not want his sympathy. In a nod to the popular support for Redknapp, Hodgson said that he would "have to be on another planet not to be aware" of the situation he found himself in as the surprise choice for the job.

Hodgson confirmed that he would take Wayne Rooney to Euro 2012 despite the Manchester United striker being suspended for the first two games of the tournament. He also strongly hinted that he would pick just 23 players on 13 May to take to the pre-tournament camp in Marbella instead of the approach of his predecessor, Fabio Capello, who took 30 away before the last World Cup finals and cut seven of them. Hodgson will stay in charge of West Bromwich for their final two games of the season.

There was no confirmation that the caretaker Stuart Pearce would continue to be involved as a coach. Nor did Hodgson give any clues as to his early thoughts on who his captain might be. Bernstein said that there were no break clauses in his four-year contract that would – depending on qualification – take in this summer's European Championship, the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil and Euro 2016 in France.

Addressing the issue of his nine unhappy months as Liverpool manager, Hodgson said that there was "one major difference" between his time at the club and this latest appointment. "The people at Liverpool who appointed me didn't have a chance to stay very long and others took over the club," he said. "The FA had a lot of time to decide which candidate they wanted to do the job, and I'm happy it was me."

The closest Bernstein came to mentioning Redknapp or any other candidate was when he admitted there were "easier appointments" to make than Hodgson, but that his chairmanship would largely be judged on the success of this decision. "One of the most important decisions a chairman and board can make is the appointment of a manager, and I won't have too many stabs at this," Bernstein said. "I hope this is my only appointment as that would be a great sign of success. We all stand and fall together on this."

Hodgson was asked by a television reporter why he broke the sporting boycott of apartheid South Africa by playing there between 1973 and 1974 for club side Berea Park, a sure sign of the far greater level of scrutiny the England manager is subject to in comparison to his counterparts.

"I was young at the time, and went there purely for football reasons," Hodgson said. "I was desperate to play football on a full-time basis... I was anti-apartheid, but there's not much we could have done about it. We all thought it was an evil regime."

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