Why is Terry in and Ferdinand out?
Roy Hodgson did a good job of negotiating his first tricky task as England manager
Well, that didn’t take long. No sooner had the FA website crashed through sheer weight of the demand of those hoping to gain a peek of Roy Hodgson’s England squad for Euro 2012 that the Twitterati concluded there was only one thing for it; #Hodgsonout.
Tongues may have been firmly in cheek as Twitter lit up with faux outrage at Hodgson’s selection, but for the minority at least there was enough proof in the former West Brom man’s first squad to indicate a black summer and bleak future.
Why was Micah Richards cast adrift, especially given Kyle Walker’s damaged toe that ruled him out of the tournament? How did Stewart Downing make the plane given that the big zero which signifies his assists and goals this season that follows him around will require an additional seat?
But the biggest question that Hodgson faced was one of two towering centre-backs of the English game seemingly at war; why did John Terry make the cut and why was Rio Ferdinand left to complete a career without the Three Lions?
"Are we ever getting off Rio Ferdinand?" an irritated Hodgson asked after one question too many about the Manchester United defender. "There are 23 men in the squad, we’re preparing for the future, and yet we’re concentrating on one man, discussing one man until the cows come home."
Unfortunately for Hodgson, the question of Ferdinand’s omittance, and by proxy the inclusion of Terry, will linger longer that he cares to imagine.
Would Terry’s court case, which will be heard a week after the final of Euro 2012, that England can have little hope of being involved in, cast a shadow over England’s time in Poland and Ukraine?
“No, I didn't have any reason to think that,” said Hodgson. “I chose John Terry, and excluded Rio Ferdinand for purely footballing reasons. Other issues were not significant in my thinking.”
So the impending court case in which Terry will stand trial for racially abusing Ferdinand’s brother Anton was not considered; the decision came solely down to the relative merits of both defenders. ‘Football reasons’ were behind the decision, we were told repeatedly.
Hodgson also insisted that his decision was not based on Sir Alex Ferguson’s comments that Ferdinand would struggle to play games in quick succession.
He denied it was because he hadn’t played as frequently for United as he would have liked, although he later cited Ferdinand’s lack of action with England, even if the man he named captain, Steven Gerrard, has played just 33 minutes for England in 19 months.
Both Ferdinand and Terry have played a similar amount of league games this season while both had had their dips in form across a difficult season for both Manchester United and Chelsea.
Ferdinand’s slovenliness against Liverpool, for example, has been remembered. Terry’s Champions League idiocy that saw him skulk down the Nou Camp tunnel having just kneed Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez in the back has been forgotten, as has dubious performance in the 4-1 defeat against Liverpool in the aftermath of Chelsea’s FA Cup final win.
“I've been impressed with a lot of what John Terry has done over the course of the season," added Hodgson.
"He's played a major part in helping Chelsea to the Champions League final, and it's not as if John Terry's a person who hasn't had a lot of criticism in his life. He's had to deal with it.”
There is little doubt that Terry is a divisive figure in the England camp and what his fellow England internationals will make of his inclusion will remain a mystery - But both he and Ferdinand have their have doubts against their name having once been England’s automatic first choice central-defensive pairing, yet Terry remains while Ferdinand has faltered – why is that?
It was always unlikley that Hodgson would name both in his squad; for all the talk that he would have been happy to select both he told the assembled press that he 'wouldn't insult' their intelegence by saying he hadn't given Terry's court case and its implication a thought.
He named Terry in his squad in the knowledge that he could pick only one, so despite having his decision based in the knowledge of the impact a division between the pair might have, he can still rightly claim that footballing reasons were behind his though proccess.
If only one can go because of other reasons then it would be who he considers the better footballer, and that is what he has done in picking Terry.
Word is that Hodgson hasn’t been impressed with Ferdinand’s ball-playing style as a centre-back ever since he was forced to adopt his game to account for his lack of speed and mobility that have been hindered by his prolonged back injury.
Terry, Hodgson may suspect, could also be the man to lead England into tournament football this year and deliver an England side in an unfamiliar position, unburdened by expectation. Ferdinand meanwhile, was forced to sit by while Hodgson selected his understudy at club level, Phil Jones, above him.
"You don’t necessarily have to be the best team to win a tournament," Hodgson explained. ”You can get by with good team spirit, and a bit of luck at the right times.”
Of course his coup d'état in South Africa and subsequent exposure as potential racist, wife-bothering philanderer doesn’t exactly do much for his image as a rabble-rousing leader of the Three Lions, but he is the best Hodgson can call upon. Make of that what you will.