Armchair Pundit

Hodgson should forget about Rio’s return

Alex Chick

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It has been a rough couple of years for Rio Ferdinand.

In 2010 he was set to captain England at the World Cup, only for an injury to rule him out of the tournament, heralding the sad petering-out of his England career.

The following season he led England twice before Capello returned the armband to the once-disgraced John Terry - a decision on which history will not look kindly.

Fast forward to Terry's second sacking, when the captaincy passed to Steven Gerrard and Ferdinand found himself vilified by some England fans.

Why? For daring to be related to someone who believed he was the victim of racial abuse. The traitor.

Then came Rio's omission from Euro 2012 for 'football reasons' while toxic Terry bagged a window seat on the plane to Eastern Europe.

Small wonder Ferdinand sees Terry's international retirement, a bizarre act of self-immolation, as an opportunity to get back into the England team.

He can put his misfortune behind him and end his impressive career on the high note it deserves.

Yet however much we might sympathise with Ferdinand, for Hodgson to restore him now would be folly.

Those infamous and widely ridiculed 'football reasons' focused mainly on his body's inability to cope with the rapid-fire fixtures of a major tournament.

While Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson clearly had selfish reasons to warn Hodgson against picking his defender, the basic point was fair.

Last season, only five times did Ferdinand three games in eight days or fewer.

In that sequence, United won none of their five midweek matches (against Basel twice, Benfica, Athletic Bilbao and Wigan).

Ferdinand's fragile back and groin were managed carefully. He was not overused, even after Nemanja Vidic's season-ending injury left United short.

He could not have managed the six games in 21 days that would have been necessary to win Euro 2012.

In 2014 he will be 35 - what chance Ferdinand playing all seven matches in the splendidly unlikely event of England going all the way in Brazil?

You could argue that Ferdinand's unsuitability for a World Cup two years away is no reason to omit him now. You might think England just need to pick the best players available and make sure they qualify.

It's a fair point. But if England need Rio Ferdinand to negotiate a dismally weak qualifying group, they're probably better off staying away from the World Cup altogether.

Ferdinand's long-standing fitness issues actually mean England have plenty of cover at centre-back.

Joleon Lescott, Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka all have ample experience. None is an elite international player - but then, who in Hodgson's England squad really is?

Hodgson must now pick his preferred pair and give them a decent run - not dip into England's pass for an injury-prone defensive pinch-hitter.

Above all, Terry's petulant rattle-throwing has given England the opportunity to move into a new, calmer phase.

Successive England managers considered the Chelsea captain worth the hassle, but the benefits of his absence are clear.

England are now free of a domineering dressing room presence and a lightning rod for controversy.

There seems to be a little more oxygen in the air since that Sunday-night tantrum in press release form.

So, what does Ferdinand have to do with this? Through no fault of his own, he will forever be linked to Terry.

They used to be a formidable defensive partnership - now they personify a bizarre, modern football feud.

Without doing anything more than supporting his brother in court, in the eyes of the public Ferdinand has become Terry's natural enemy. He is the bemused yang to Terry's shadowy yin.

By picking Ferdinand, Hodgson would only be inviting people to talk about Terry, to dredge up all the acrimony he brought to the national game.

Ferdinand is in good form. His continued commitment to playing for England, after all he has been through, is refreshing and admirable.

Does he deserve one last crack? Yes. Should he get one? No. It's time to move on.

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