Thursday 18 January 2018

Rio: I'll never retire from England duty

Mark Fleming

RIO FERDINAND was yesterday handed back the England captaincy ahead of tonight's Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro, and the Manchester United defender responded to Fabio Capello's vote of confidence by declaring that he will never retire from international duty.

Capello told Ferdinand (31) yesterday morning that he would return to the team as captain after Steven Gerrard had led the side at the World Cup in South Africa and in the first two European Championship qualifying matches in the defender's absence.

The United player also woke to discover that TV pundit Alan Hansen had called for him to retire from England duty, in order to give himself a chance to recover from the injuries that have blighted the past two years.

Ferdinand suffered knee ligament damage during England's first training session in South Africa in June and has only recently returned to fitness.

However, he dismissed suggestions he would never return to complete fitness and angrily denied that a withdrawal from the international game would be helpful.

"You can't retire from England. I can't. You have to respect other people's decisions, but I actually love playing for England. To stop doing that for me, personally, would be taking a big chunk out of my footballing life," he said.

"I love playing for Manchester United, and I'm thankful for that every morning when I wake up, but I do for England, too. Unless I'm physically incapable of doing it, retiring is something I wouldn't consider."

Capello told Ferdinand yesterday morning of his decision concerning the captaincy, having informed Gerrard on Sunday night.

He told the squad the news, then watched as Darren Bent pulled up with a groin injury that rules him out of facing Montenegro, meaning Capello will start with Peter Crouch up front alongside Wayne Rooney tonight for the visit of the surprise leaders of Group G.

Capello said the captaincy issue was never really in doubt.


"Rio is back. He is captain," he said.

"I was really happy when (Gerrard) played like a captain, with a fantastic performance every time, and he played like a leader on the pitch.

"But the rules are really important. We know who is the captain and who is the vice-captain. My rules are my rules. No difference. I never change my rules.

"Rio is a good captain. He's a leader on the pitch."

Ferdinand will partner Joleon Lescott at the heart of the defence, following the withdrawals through injury of John Terry and Phil Jagielka.

Crouch will play up front, with Ashley Young and Adam Johnson providing ammunition from the wings, as James Milner is suspended and Theo Walcott and Aaron Lennon are both injured.

Chelsea's Ashley Cole is set to win his 86th cap tonight, which would equal the record for an England full-back held by Kenny Sansom.

The return of the captain's armband has come as an added bonus to Ferdinand, who was more concerned at making the squad having only played four games for United since returning from injury.

"It's an absolute honour to be named as captain of your country. But, first and foremost, I'm more happy to be back playing football on a regular basis, albeit after only four or five games," he said.

"I have no reason for concern in terms of my fitness."

Ferdinand was keen to dispel the perception that he can no longer play a full season, or is incapable of playing three games a week.

He said: "My back had been fine. I had no injuries in the warm-up to the World Cup, and it was just a freak accident what happened. That led me to the position I'm in now.

"I played two games in four days last week and it was pleasing to get through that and prove I could do it physically. It was a good thing to be able to tick off. You go back to basics: play one game, then two, then three games a week, and continue."

Capello also confirmed that Ferdinand and Terry remain his favoured pairing in defence, despite the impressive form recently of Jagielka.

"I hope they will be fit, because they have some back problems," the Italian said. "If these players are fit, they will play together in the future." (© Independent News Service)

England v Montenegro

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