Hodgson regrets Rio Tube gaffe
ROY HODGSON has issued a personal apology to Rio Ferdinand after admitting he insulted the Manchester United defender by revealing his omission from the England squad for the World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Poland in conversations with commuters on the Tube.
The England manager has chosen instead to call up the uncapped Stoke City defender Ryan Shawcross to the 25-man squad as a replacement for John Terry, who considers his decision to retire from international football irrevocable.
Ferdinand had been considered a potential replacement for the Chelsea centre half, although Hodgson now fears the manner in which the 33-year-old learned he would not be selected could prompt the veteran to call time on his England career after 81 caps.
“I’m very disappointed that my travelling on the Tube train and suggesting Rio’s career is over to a passing punter has been recorded as it has,” said Hodgson after details of his conversation with commuters en route to Arsenal’s Champions League tie against Olympiakos appeared in the following day’s newspapers.
“I’m definitely not closing the door on Rio, and there is no way I would ever indicate I wasn’t going to use a player in that way. All I remember was that I was talking to quite a lot of people on the Tube and one guy asked: ‘Is Rio in the next squad?’ and I think I might have said: ‘I don’t think so.’ But it’s a mistake and I need to apologise for that. I’ve paid for it.
“I’ll try and contact Rio because he deserves an apology from me: I’m disappointed he found out he’d been excluded in that way, and I’ll offer him my sincere apologies. I respect the man and I respect the player, but I am looking forward. Rio didn’t feature in my plans for the European Championship in the summer. Since then the players I’ve used have done well for me, and I’m sticking with those players.
“I’m trying to rejuvenate the squad. If Rio is still interested after what he might regard as an insult – it wasn’t intended as such, but he may now turn his back on us even if we don’t on him – then when I call him up it would be directly to play in the team, not just as part of the squad.”
Hodgson left a message on Ferdinand’s mobile telephone, with the defender’s representative telephoning the FA to confirm the apology had been accepted and stressing a desire to move on.
Hodgson has selected Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster and recalled Aaron Lennon, who has not played for his country since the goalless draw with Algeria in Cape Town at the 2010 World Cup, and Arsenal left back Kieran Gibbs, who won the last of his two caps in the friendly defeat by France 23 months ago.
Ashley Cole will secure his 100th cap if he plays against San Marino and Poland, though the England manager does not envisage Cole’s club-mate, Terry, being available again.
“He’s made his decision. It’s a decision that’s irrevocable as far as he’s concerned.”
There was, however, more embarrassment for Hodgson last night when Norwich striker Grant Holt labelled the manager’s decision to ignore him as ridiculous.
The 31-year-old scored 15 Premier League goals last season to finish as the second-highest-scoring Englishman behind Wayne Rooney. He was nevertheless overlooked by Hodgson in the buildup to Euro 2012, and is not holding his breath for a call-up.
“I gave up on that,” Holt told BBC Radio Norfolk. “When two friendlies came up and I wasn’t included, it was ridiculous, to be honest. He hasn’t given anyone opportunities – people like Nathan Dyer and Danny Graham from Swansea didn’t even get a look in, but that’s life.”
Frank Lampard is expected to captain the side against San Marino a week today, with Steven Gerrard suspended for the fixture at Wembley. Liverpool full back Glen Johnson is also banned from that qualifier, with Kyle Walker to step in.
Hodgson had considered calling up Arsenal’s Carl Jenkinson after his impressive recent displays, but will instead offer the 20-year-old a first cap in next month’s friendly against Sweden in Stockholm.
ENGLAND SQUAD (for World Cup qualifiers v San Marino and Poland): Hart (Manchester City), Ruddy (Norwich), Forster (Celtic); Baines (Everton), Cahill (Chelsea), Cole (Chelsea), Gibbs (Arsenal), Jagielka (Everton), G Johnson (Liverpool), Lescott (Manchester City), Shawcross (Stoke), Walker (Tottenham); Carrick (Manchester Utd), Cleverley (Manchester Utd), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Gerrard (Liverpool), A Johnson (Sunderland), Lennon (Tottenham), Lampard (Chelsea), Milner (Manchester City), Walcott (Arsenal); Carroll (West Ham, on loan from Liverpool), Defoe (Tottenham), Rooney (Manchester Utd), Welbeck (Manchester Utd).