Sam Wallace: Roy Hodgson's about-turn gives the lie to wackier conspiracy theories

 

In the end, all that Roy Hodgson is guilty of having done is change his mind which, given that many managers do so repeatedly in the space of one game, is hardly the biggest crime.

Yes, there is no question that when asked about Ferdinand's future after a wobbly defensive showing against Brazil in February, the England manager did react like a man who would rather discuss just about anything else. He may well have told tube passengers in October that it was the "end of the line" for Ferdinand with England, although he has since denied that.

But today he gave the lie to the wackier conspiracy theories that Ferdinand's exclusion was part of a sinister plot, or an inexplicable act of favouritism towards John Terry. Plainly, it was not. Hodgson now sees a merit in picking Ferdinand that he previously did not: football is like that sometimes. With about as much humour as he could muster, Hodgson said that his admission after the Brazil game that he was "sick of talking" about Ferdinand still stood, if perhaps his view of the player had changed. "I stand by that," he said. "I'm still sick of talking about it."

As for the rest of it, he had maintained he had never – that disputed tube journey conversation aside – closed the door on Ferdinand's international career.

"You say one thing one day, one thing another day. At the moment I have selected him because I think he is the right man to do the job. That's the bottom line. I'm hoping he will be pleased. I am hoping he plays so well that he plays every single game England play from now to eternity but I don't have a crystal ball."

If the final part of the answer sounded sarcastic, it was only because Hodgson had run out of ways of saying he had changed his mind. As England managers go, he is far more candid than the likes of Sven Goran-Eriksson and Fabio Capello, and tries to explain as best he can what can be, let's face it, the occasionally nightmarish job of dealing with English football's biggest names.

The Ferdinand issue has its roots in the messy and complex fallout from John Terry's race charges against Ferdinand's brother, Anton. That is a delicate state of affairs with feelings running high, for understandable reasons, and the added complexity that Terry was cleared by a court but found guilty by the Football Association. The FA fined Ferdinand, too, for that racially crude remark about Cole he referred to on Twitter.

So when Hodgson refers to the "unfortunate incident" between Cole and Ferdinand, which is to do with the Terry court case, and the testimony Cole supplied to support his defence, you do wince at the simplification. But then you remember that this is an England manager trying his best to navigate a way through the racial politics and public feuds of modern football. It is by no means easy.

Hodgson's primary aim is to get England to the 2014 World Cup finals and he has decided that Ferdinand, who was last in a squad in August 2011, is his best option. It is not a climb-down, or a humiliation, it is simply a manager doing what he thinks is best.

"He [Ferdinand] has missed very few games this year and those he has missed are because Sir Alex Ferguson has decided to give someone else a run-out," Hodgson said. "He has mixed and matched quite a lot this year but Rio has played a lot more than any other centre-half."

No-one would, for a moment, expect Ferdinand or Cole to forget the grievances that they may hold about the Terry case and all its fallout. It is far too painful for that. But Hodgson's straight plea that the two co-exist peacefully in the squad next week is a reasonable request to two professionals.

As it stands, it does not appear that any issue between Cole and Ferdinand will preclude them from working together. The real issue remains between Ferdinand and Terry, who has retired from international football.

Having made his decision to recall Ferdinand, the sting has been taken out of the issue to a great extent. It also meant, as the England manager no doubt noticed, that he was barely asked about Wayne Rooney being dropped for the Champions League tie against Real Madrid or Ferguson's recent rant against the FA. They had to wait for another day.

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