Rio Ferdinand retirement: An England career that failed to deliver on its promise

The Manchester United defender was arguably the leading light of the 'golden generation'

It is almost two years since Rio Ferdinand last kicked a football for England, but there is still a sense of regret over the announcement today of his retirement from the international game.

Inevitably the questioning as to why a generation that included Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard achieved so little for their country will restart.

With Ferdinand the explanation lies in his particular circumstances and there is a genuine sense that the game here missed something during his career. His figures over 17 years are impressive: 81 caps, three goals and 10 World Cup finals appearances. During that time he cleaned up at club football with Manchester United: six Premier League titles, two League Cups and success in the Champions League in 2008. This is the context from which to assess any disappointment. Ferdinand, at 34, has won most of what the game could offer him. He also made the PFA team of the year this season, the first time has done so in four years.

Yet for English football there will be a sense of what Ferdinand was supposed to do — to pioneer the age of the imposing central defender who could also play. He had been an attacking midfielder in his youth, encouraged to move into the centre of defence by his towering frame.

At West Ham and Leeds he would carry the ball from the heart of his own defenders. It looked sophisticated, he had vision, it seemed a natural gift to carry into international football where he looked a natural. But it never quite worked out that way. It is said that Sir Alex Ferguson wanted the player to concentrate on his defensive duties and maybe England suffered as a result.

“After a great deal of thought, I have decided the time is right to retire from international football,” he said on Wednesday morning.

“I feel it is right for me to stand aside and let the younger players come through, which allows me to concentrate on my club career. The team looks in great shape and there is an influx of young, talented players coming through the ranks, which bodes well for the future.”

Even in that there is a question mark. Chris Smalling and Phil Jagielka have still to offer authority at international level. Phil Jones has made 16 Premier League appearance this season. Joleon Lescott has not been guaranteed a  game for Manchester City. Tottenham tried to sell Michael Dawson last summer and the main interest came from Queens Park Rangers, who start next season in the Championship. Then there is Ryan Shawcross (uncompromising), Gary Cahill (still developing) and of course, John Terry.

Ferdinand was overlooked by Roy Hodgson last summer for the European Championship. The England manager talked about the defender with members of the public on the tube. His absence from Euro 2012 avoided a possible conflict with Terry, as the Chelsea captain awaited trial over allegations he had racially abused Anton Ferdinand. Terry was cleared of the charge in court but later found guilty by the FA.

It has been a messy two years since that last appearance in June 2011 against Switzerland. He was recalled for England’s World Cup qualifying games with San Marino and Montenegro in March but pulled out because of concerns over a long-standing back injury. Instead he travelled to Qatar to appear on television, discussing the games he missed.

It seems a long time since Ferdinand became the youngest defender to play for England when he made his international debut against Cameroon in 1997. He was 19. There were three World Cups (98, 2002 and 2006).

“I regard it as a great honour and a privilege to have represented my country at every level from under-17s upwards,” Ferdinand added. “I have always been very proud to play for England. I would like to wish Roy and the team all the best for future tournaments. A big thank you to all the fans, managers, coaching staff and players that I have worked alongside – the journey has been incredible.”

Just never quite as spectacular as purists had hoped.

News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
News
Robyn Lawley
people
News
people
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
people
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine