Humiliation for Hodgson as Ferdinand snubs call-up
RIO FERDINAND delivered a humiliating and potentially damaging snub to Roy Hodgson by turning down the chance to play for England in order to safeguard his Manchester United future.
Four days after being named in Hodgson's squad for the World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro – the second of which is key to England's hopes of reaching the 2014 finals in Brazil – Ferdinand announced that he had rejected the chance to end his two-year exile from international football.
With an agreement yet to be reached with Alex Fegruson over a new contract to extend his stay at Old Trafford beyond the end of the season, Ferdinand was not prepared to jeopardise his club position by risking either his fitness or Ferguson's support.
However, the manner of his withdrawal, which followed a meeting with Hodgson in London on Sunday night and forced the England manager to call up the vastly less experienced Tottenham defender Steven Caulker, bordered on farce – not least because Ferguson said on Saturday that Ferdinand would definitely join the squad.
The English FA issued a statement yesterday which did not say Ferdinand was injured but instead that the player could not interrupt his "pre-planned training and medical programme" with United.
The 34-year-old's decision to put club before country is a blow to the status of the England team and was criticised by a number of former internationals.
Stan Collymore described it as "another nail" in the coffin of the national team, while Gary Lineker suggested that Ferdinand's England career was now over when he said the defender's actions constituted a "strange way to bow out".
Ferdinand later tweeted: "I thought these ex sportsman who have experience with injuries + maintenance would know better than to chat rubbish like they are doing..."
The United defender had earlier tweeted that he was "gutted" that his "intricate pre-planned programme" of treatment and training could not be adapted in order to let him play.
Ferdinand's withdrawal has raised questions over Hodgson's judgment following his failure to contact United or the player prior to his selection in an effort to gauge his readiness to play.
It is understood that concerns within the FA about such contact being leaked ahead of the squad announcement prompted the lack of exploratory talks between Hodgson and United.
However, with Ferdinand's battle against a long-term back problem no secret within the game, sources at United have expressed surprise at the failure of the England camp to discuss his fitness prior to the squad being announced last Thursday, save for a phone-call that day between Hodgson and Ferguson, which resulted in the United manager admitting to being "surprised" by Ferdinand's recall.
Ferguson made clear his reservations about Ferdinand returning to the international stage during his weekly press conference last Friday and revealed that talks with club doctor Steve McNally would take place before the player came to a decision.
Ferdinand's withdrawal has left Hodgson with a defensive headache going into the qualifiers, with Caulker promoted from the U-21s to compete with Joleon Lescott and Gary Cahill, who is by no means certain to be fit, for the centre-half positions.
There is also the possibility that Michael Carrick could be co-opted into the role as he has done for United in the past.
The centre of defence will be a concern for Hodgson in Podgorica. Montenegro coach Branko Brnovic has named both Mirko Vucinic of Juventus and Stevan Jovetic of Fiorentina in his squad.
Ferguson, meanwhile, is focused on United's busy schedule. Starting on Saturday week, they play Sunderland, Chelsea in the FA Cup sixth-round replay and then Manchester City in the space of 10 days. (© Daily Telegraph, London)