England: Ferdinand's fair game
Roy Hodgson has left open the possibility that Rio Ferdinand will make the England squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. If it happens, it will be historic. Ferdinand was a part of the England squad for the 1998 World Cup in France. In terms of longevity, that is inimitable – but it also says a lot for the nature of the Hodgson era and the nature of Ferdinand’s fortitude.
Many people thought Ferdinand’s international career was history when he failed to make the Euro 2012 squad. Dropped “for football reasons”, officially. Now he is back “for football reasons”, officially.
Hodgson has shown flexibility and fairness. Ferdinand kept his mouth shut and improved his game after a period of decline. He is one reason why Manchester United are strolling towards another Premier League title.
Ferdinand’s return is no surprise. Phil Jagielka of Everton has an ankle injury, Joleon Lescott is no longer the player he was for Manchester City, and Gary Cahill seems to lack the positional sense – so important at international level – to match his physical presence.
Ferdinand might have lost a yard of pace but, intellectually, he is still the best defender England have.
“A player of Rio's calibre and also of Rio's age, you don't bring them into a squad as back-ups,” Hodgson said. “You bring them into the squad or the team because you want them to make the team better, to give you a better chance of winning. So it wouldn't take too much guesswork to work out that he's in the squad in order to play rather than to make up the numbers.
“Like all players you select, you select them because you think they're capable of doing the job you want them to do. But who knows what the future holds? 2014 is still a long way off and if Rio is still going the way he is at the moment, in 2014 he is going to be a major candidate for the squad.
“He has been playing well and his team have been playing extremely well. I think this is the moment to select him because he certainly deserves it on current form.”
England must qualify first and Ferdinand must maintain his form, but at least he now knows that it is a fair game. Contrary to perceptions, Hodgson did not drop him for political reasons, and Ferdinand’s recall is proof that the England head coach was right all along.
Merit is everything; politics, just an excuse.