England manager Roy Hodgson has hit back at criticism over his decision to leave Rio Ferdinand out of his Euro 2012 squad.
Paddy Power Blog columnist Robbie Fowler was among those dismayed at the decision to ditch the experienced Manchester United centre-half when Gary Cahill got injured.
Speaking today BBC Radio 5 live, Hodgson hit back: “I was somewhat surprised when the debate arose again. There was obviously no question with the players that we had and the cover that we already had for centre-backs in the squad, when Gary Cahill got injured, to be frank there was never any thought in my mind that I would call up Rio Ferdinand as a cover player.
“I don’t think Rio Ferdinand is a player you select to cover the players you’ve chosen. I think when you chose Ferdinand with his 81 caps and his experience you choose him to put him in the team.
“My thoughts immediately turned to what young players we could bring along that would benefit from the experience. We turned to Martin Kelly, who had been with us before on the Norway trip.
“Rio’s name never really featured in the discussions,” said Hodgson.
While Fowler thought Ferdinand’s England career was over, the England manager insisted that was not the case.
“Ferdinand has no reason to fear for his international future. All the time he keeps playing, I’ll keep watching him,” Hodgson told the BBC.
“The fact is, in the last couple of years he hasn’t played many games for England, which is of course one of the factors I took into account when I made my decision. He’d only played three games in just over two years, but he will always be a contender for a place in the England team.
“My respect for him should go a lot further than just asking him to come along to a tournament to be a player to cover.”
There was a final burst of anger from Roy as he said: “The only disappointing factor I suppose for us who are working here is that it has taken the focus away from the fact that we are playing a very big match on Monday against France.
“I seriously believe that there are a lot of people in England who are more interested in watching England play than taking part in a debate over which players should have been chosen or not.”
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