England manager Roy Hodgson has spoken for the first time since questions arose surrounding his excuse of ‘footballing reasons’ for dropping Rio Ferdinand from his squad for Euro 2012 – and rejected allegations the 33-year-old was left out because of the presence of John Terry.
Ferdinand was something of a surprise omission from Hodgson’s squad, announced last month, while Terry was included despite his impending court case for racially abusing Ferdinand’s brother, Anton.
Hodgson insisted upon announcing his squad that Ferdinand was left out for purely footballing reasons, something that appeared to be untrue after Gary Cahill was ruled out of the tournament only for the former West Brom boss to call up Liverpool youngster Martin Kelly.
Hodgson had been due to talk with the media on Thursday but cancelled his press conference, with Joe Hart and Stewart Downing fielding questions instead.
However far from excluding Ferdinand, Hodgson revealed it was ‘easy’ to overlook the Manchester United defender in favour of Kelly, because he was looking for a young player to come into the squad rather than a more experienced defender to act as cover.
"People think I looked at two players when Gary Cahill was injured, Martin Kelly and Rio Ferdinand, and chose Martin Kelly,” he said.
“But there was never any question of that. The truth is Rio Ferdinand never came into consideration. I had my squad of 23. I had the players I knew, in Cahill's absence, would probably be the starters, and I knew who would be the covering players.
“When it came to bringing another player into the squad, I wasn't going to bring in a player of Rio Ferdinand's age, class, background and experience to be a cover player.
"When you've played 81 times already for your country – though only a couple of times in the last few years and had a lot of injuries – I don't think those players go to major tournaments as travellers.
“They go as one of the first names on the team sheet. I had to be convinced that, if I was going to take Rio in my 23, he would be one of the first names on the team sheet. I couldn't be convinced that would be the case."
After Kelly had been named as Cahill’s replacement, Ferdinand’s advisor Jamie Moralee accused Hodgson of a ‘total lack of respect’ in his handling of the situation, something that Hodgson admits has played on his mind, although not the extent that it has affected his preparations for England’s first match of Euro 2012 against France on Monday.
"I know there's been a debate, and you can hit me with every quote from Rio's people under the sun," said Hodgson. "All I know is I made a decision, a very clear one, a very easy one to make. The difficult decision was whether to take Rio in the original 23 or not.
"It was a tough call to make, to tell him that I wasn't including him. We had a private conversation. I wouldn't dream of telling you what I or he said. I didn't look forward to making that call. I did it. As far as I'm concerned, it was done. It took a lot of soul-searching. But when Cahill got injured that soul-searching never came up for me again.
"Now I have to live with the fact — no doubt in this tournament and maybe for years ahead — that people have said other things, and his representatives have said other things. It's a fact of life. But I've got a match to play on Monday and that matters to me very deeply."
The 64-year-old did at least concede that he had mulled over the impact Terry’s impending court case could have on team morale during the European Championships, but insists: “I chose the centre-backs I wanted to come with me. I can't be clearer than that.”