Rio Ferdinand is a smart guy but when it comes to his England career, he may have just made the biggest mistake of his career. Left out of various squads since 2011, Rio was offered a lifeline back into international football by Roy Hodgson only to eventually turn it down due to a back problem, which would have been aggravated by travelling to San Marino and Montenegro. Players call off all the time for international duty but Rio made the fateful mistake of then accepting a job with Al Jazeera as a TV pundit for the games in Dubai. Fifteen hours on a flight, with a troublesome back apparently held little concern for Rio who defended his decision saying that the international break would help his intricate, pre-planned fitness programme and that he had discussed this with Hodgson who agreed that removing himself from the two games would only be to England’s advantage long-term.
It was a strange decision from Rio to admit to Hodgson that at the moment he is unable at 34 to play two competitive fixtures within five days. This surely doesn’t bode well for Hodgson if his team does reach the World Cup as taking a player who can’t play two games in close proximity like in a world cup scenario is a dangerous game to play. England fans will remember the decision of Fabio Capello to take an injury ravaged Ledley king to the 2010 World Cup ahead of teammate Michael Dawson, only for him to get injured in the first game and be ruled out of the tournament. With a 23 man squad to choose from, a semi fit Rio at aged 35 doesn’t look like a compelling option for the England boss. Hodgson however has left the door open to a return, but it may only be a token gesture, similar to that taken by former coaches Eriksson and Capello in regards to David Beckham. Hodgson doesn’t appear to be a fan of the Manchester United defender and is often caught in embarrassing situations then forced to deny them when it comes to Rio. He was famously asked by an England fan on the London Underground if Rio would ever play again to which Roy replied no. He reversed this statement days later after the story was leaked and an aggravated Rio took to Twitter to blast the coach.
Whether Hodgson ever wanted to bring him back into the fold or not is debatable, but it would appear as though the England faithful have had enough of Rio as well, given sections of their support at the game against Montenegro were singing racially fuelled songs about the player. The FA is having to investigating yet another incident of racial abuse, only months after concluding John Terry’s case, who was investigated after being caught on film racially abusing Rio’s brother, Anton in a game between Chelsea and QPR in 2011. The whole episode left a very bitter taste in the mouth of Rio who had played alongside Terry on numerous occasions for England. Terry, to be fair, is no stranger to controversy and annoying teammates after admitting to bedding Wayne Bridge’s girlfriend behind his back.
Hodgson’s decision to stand by Terry during the racial scandal and reintroduce him into the team after the storm had passed, whilst leaving Rio out has fueled the theory that Hodgson does not rate Rio as a defender anymore regardless of what he says publicly. England midfielder Frank Lampard has come out this week and backed Rio to play again for England stating that he is still a quality centre half and a valuable asset to the squad. But ultimately the decision lies with Hodgson if he is to give Rio yet another chance to stake his claim. Rio however may have just given him the perfect excuse to end it all together as the England coach simply has to state his concerns over the aging defenders physical condition and ability to play at international level. If he does go down this path, then Rio only has himself to blame as he could have gained his 82nd cap against San Marino last week.