Roy Hodgson has made it clear Rio Ferdinand still has an England future despite the Manchester United defender pulling out of the World Cup qualifiers with San Marino and Montenegro.
Ferdinand travelled to London last night to explain personally to Hodgson why it was impossible for him to accept a return to the England fold at this time.
As Sir Alex Ferguson explained on Friday, there were huge concerns at Old Trafford over the disruption to a long-standing schedule Manchester United’s medical staff have put in place for Ferdinand, which is the reason why he has been able to reach such a consistently high level of performances this season.
Had Hodgson spoken to Ferdinand ahead of Thursday’s squad announcement, it is possible the 34-year-old’s training regime could have been altered.
However, as the former West Ham captain did not learn of his first call-up under Hodgson until the same time as everyone else, it meant there was no room for manoeuvre.
It is what Ferguson knew on Friday, but Ferdinand felt he had to explain to Hodgson in person given the bad blood created over the player’s omission from Euro 2012.
And that move could pave the way for Ferdinand’s return in the summer.
“I’m disappointed Rio will not be available, but due to the detailed pre-planned training and medical programme he must follow it’s not possible,” said Hodgson.
“However, I was pleased that Rio called and asked to meet with me. It was important to hear from him personally about the way he must manage his body between games.
“This is not to say he cannot play back to back games ÔÇô he can and has proven so. He’s out this time due to particular pre-planned details already in place for his programme.
“I must place on record how I was impressed with his commitment to playing for England and I look forward to hopefully selecting him for squads in the future.”
Ferdinand said he was “gutted” at having to withdraw, but insisted it was the “right decision”.
Whilst friendlies against the Republic of Ireland on May 29 and Brazil in Rio de Janeiro on June 2 do not look like the obvious games in which Ferdinand should extend his 81-cap career, the fact he can do so in a less pressurised environment, and after the domestic season has finished, make it more likely.
That would ease Ferdinand back into the fray in time for the crucial World Cup qualifiers in the autumn that will determine whether England make it to Brazil or not.
In addition, Ferdinand’s contract situation will also have been resolved as the prospect of ignoring United’s medical strategy, and then getting injured on international duty, could have wrecked any hope he had of remaining at Old Trafford.
Yet it still seems baffling Hodgson generated five days’ worth of headlines around Ferdinand without first asking Ferguson whether the player was actually fit.
It comes more from the Fabio Capello school of non-communication that Hodgson’s avuncular style.
There is no doubt it is a blow though, particularly as Tottenham’s Michael Dawson withdrew yesterday, meaning Steven Caulker and Joleon Lescott have both been drafted into Hodgson’s squad to join Gary Cahill and Chris Smalling, the other central defenders originally chosen.
Whilst the selection for Friday’s game with San Marino is hardly an issue, the trip to Montenegro next Tuesday could prove pivotal to England’s hopes of automatic qualification.
Ferdinand will now watch on TV, hoping he too will make it to Brazil 2014.
“I’m gutted I had to pull out of England squad,” Ferdinand wrote on Twitter. “But it was the right decision for my intricate pre-planned programme.
“It was important for me to be able to speak with Roy face to face and explain the situation.
“One thing I made clear was that my passion and commitment to represent my country is as strong as ever.
“It is disappointing that I won’t be able to play a part in the forthcoming games but I told Roy that I want to continue to be available for England and I look forward to working with him in the future.”