England falling foul of football politics

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As is so often the case with England at major tournaments, attention appears to be placed on actions off-the-field as much as on it.

If it isn’t WAGs in Germany or issues over who is the captain in South Africa, there is always something to put a hurdle in place of the Three Lions at major tournaments.

And this year, it’s injuries that appear set to threaten the nation’s cause in Poland and Ukraine, with Gary Cahill the latest player to be added to the growing list of casualties accumulated over the past two weeks.

Gareth Barry and Frank Lampard left England weak in midfielder, with Jordan Henderson drafted in as cover when the second man fell after Phil Jagielka got the first nod from Hodgson’s reserve list.

Goalkeeper John Ruddy was another casualty, although Jack Butland’s call-up had few reverberations in the British media as the youngster is unlikely to see any action.

Whilst Martin Kelly is also unlikely to feature in much of a capacity either, his selection is much more controversial.

The Liverpool full-back played just ten times in the Premier League last season, and acted largely as cover for Glen Johnson during a disappointing season on Merseyside.

Capped several times for the England U21s, it is a major surprise for the former Fulham boss to opt for a 22-year-old with minimal experience, having made his debut against Norway last weekend.

It also leaves Rio Ferdinand out in the cold for a second time, and if his first omission was hard to take three weeks ago, then this decision will be a bitter pill to swallow, particularly after such a good season with Manchester United personally.

"Rio's very disappointed. He wants to play. He thought he'd done enough. It's very difficult to accept. This is a player with 81 caps for his country. It's a lack of respect. I don't know anyone who understands it," representative Jamie Moralee told BBC Sport.

Questions will understandably be asked, with Hodgson fielding questions around Ferdinand at his initial press conference for Euro 2012 and telling the media that he’d been left out for ‘footballing reasons’.

However, a court case between another England defender, John Terry, and Ferdinand’s younger brother, Anton, appears to be clouding the water.

It certainly puts the spotlight on this decision at least, and Hodgson will have more tough questions to answer the next time he sits down in-front of the media with less than a week to go until England face France.

There are no politics behind the omission of Micah Richards though, who was once again snubbed by Hodgson despite an impressive campaign for Manchester City last term.

Whilst Roberto Mancini rotated the versatile full-back, whose ability to play at centre back would have been an obvious advantage, he still played over twice as many games as Kelly last season. He also has the taste for success, after helping the Citizens to the title.

Missing out to Phil Jones was a close-call, but to Kelly a staggering upset. Fabio Capello didn’t appear to be a fan of Richards, and neither is Hodgson judging by this latest decision.

Both he and Ferdinand will be scratching their heads as to why at least one of them didn’t get the call first, and more details will be needed – with some justification – before the nation’s thoughts turn to France on June 11th.

Micah Richards
Martin Kelly
Rio Ferdinand

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