When Rio Ferdinand wasn’t called up to Euro 2012 at the expense of John Terry, who at the time was on trial for the racist abuse of Rio’s brother Anton, it seemed his England career was over. Ten months on, he has been recalled to the squad after an extremely consistent season with Manchester United. However, the news is clouded by a comment that Sir Alex Ferguson made today saying that Ferdinand may not join the England team next week after all.
Whether Roy Hodgson’s hand was forced due to the long-term injury to Phil Jagielka and a lack of first team football for Joleon Lescott and Steven Caulker is irrelevant. Ferdinand’s displays this season mean that a recall to the squad is definitely fully deserved. The four centre backs for the games against San Marino and Montenegro will be Ferdinand, Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling and Michael Dawson. Out of those four, Rio has appeared the joint most times in the league this season along with Cahill and made more tackles, interceptions, headed clearances and had better pass completion than any of his three rivals for the centre half positions. The statistics don’t lie; he has probably been England’s most consistent centre back this season and has proved his critics wrong. Even if he might not be to everyone’s taste, especially after his failure to turn up to a drugs test in 2003 and more recently, his kick to Fernando Torres in the game against Chelsea in the FA Cup, there is no doubt that Ferdinand deserves his place in the latest squad.
The decision from Hodgson means Ferdinand’s choice to not retire from international football is more than justified and the passion and desire he has to play for his country cannot be denied. It is an attitude that England’s youngsters should copy, retiring is not the answer. In the past, players have retired to prolong their club careers or because they didn’t want to sit on the bench for England and instead wanted to have a week off to rest for their next club game. I think we can safely say Rio Ferdinand wants to stay in peak physical condition for as long as possible and Rio Ferdinand doesn’t want to sit on the bench on a cold night in March. The difference is, Ferdinand did not choose to take the easy way out, he got his head down and decided he wanted to win his place in the squad back and that is exactly what he has done. Having suffered the humiliation of being overlooked last summer, not only in the original Euro 2012 squad but when Martin Kelly, a right back with just two minutes of international experience, was called up to replace the injured Gary Cahill instead of him, Ferdinand still chose to carry on fighting for his place. Modern footballers have often been accused of not wanting to play for the England shirt but in this case no one can accuse Rio Ferdinand of not wanting to play for his country. He has shown that there is no excuse to retire from international football and that loyalty towards your country does still exist in football.