Did Rio Ferdinand blow his last chance to play for England?
Roy Hodgson unimpressed after Rio pulls out of squad with fitness concerns – but then flies off to Doha
ENGLAND manager Roy Hodgson has dropped his strongest hint yet that Rio Ferdinand will never again play for his country. Earlier in the week the Manchester United defender pulled out of England's squad for tonight's clash with San Marino in a crucial World Cup qualifier, claiming the timing of the match didn't fit in with his management of a back condition. Ferdinand then flew off to Qatar to commentate for Al Jazeera TV on the very same match.
Asked what he thought of Ferdinand's withdrawal, Hodgson replied: "It may have been naive but I always believed that people who are selected are going to want to be there — and pleased to be selected and don't need to be told in advance."
Hodgson, who last year made a famous faux pas about the 34-year-old Ferdinand while chatting to football fans on the London Underground, was careful not to overtly criticise the former England captain's decision, restricting himself to a platitude one suspects came through gritted teeth.
"He was selected on merit and it would have been good to have him here because he's been playing well," said the England manager. "But it wasn't possible due to the fact he had to go through his programme of regeneration and keeping up his fitness."
Hodgson admitted he was "disappointed" that Ferdinand had jetted off to Doha on a 15-hour round trip but he stopped short of criticising the decision. "It is not my business quite frankly. It is not my business to interfere with an individual player and his club," he said. "I don't think this is the right moment in time for me to be discussing Rio and what's happened now and what will happen in the future."
And on the question of whether Ferdinand will ever play for the Three Lions again while he's in charge, Hodgson say he will "wait and see".
Meanwhile England captain Steven Gerrard appeared to launch a thinly veiled attack on Ferdinand's behaviour by insisting he would never snub his country.
"I don't know the details from Rio's side," said the Liverpool midfielder, "but I want to help take this team to the World Cup in Brazil. Playing for England is the pinnacle of everyone's career. If I'm not playing tomorrow I'll be very disappointed, which shows what it means to me."
As for Ferdinand, now known as the Qatar Kid, he took to Twitter to defend himself as the tide of public opinion turned against him: "Haters are gonna hate... also assume everything... although it must be the gospel truth based on assumptions!"
San Marino v England at the Stadio di Serravalle, kick-off 8pm. ·