Following the disgraceful treatment of Rio Ferdinand by Roy Hodgson and the FA, our defender was finally called up to the England squad for the World Cup qualifying games against San Marino and Montenegro. Whilst it was clear the player wanted to represent his country again, the manager hinted that there might be some issues because of Rio’s personalised programme to ensure he avoids injury. In 2008-2009 he was fit for 24 league games, the following season just 13, and in 2010-2011 just 19. Thankfully, the medical staff at United have found a way of managing Rio’s back troubles, meaning he has been available for far more games over the past two seasons.
Whilst nothing official has been confirmed, it appears as though the club told Rio that he would not be able to take part in the two England games, leading our player to make the journey down to London to tell Hodgson personally.
“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 he 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 – 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.”
However, Rio’s decission to fly to Qatar, almost a seven hour flight from London, received plenty of criticism yesterday. He has travelled to Doha where he will cover England as a television pundit on al-Jazeera and to attend the Aspire Sports Academy.
“1) Flown out for some pre-planned downtime…with a bit of punditry thrown in for a game I would have watched anyway. 2) No different from what I done on the last 10day international break…thank you guys. Haters are gonna hate…also assume everything…although it must be the gospel truth based on assumptions!”
The country’s press and ex-pros seemingly believed they had the details of Rio’s pre-planned programme and laid in to our player for going on the trip. As somebody completely unqualified to comment, just like everyone else, it doesn’t seem the most sensible idea to be on a plane for that amount of time, but like everyone else, I have no idea what Rio needs to do to ensure he is in good condition and have no idea what he might be doing on the plane to help with that.
Rio’s decision to go to Qatar hasn’t gone down too well with the England manager, who, when asked whether Rio would be selected in the future, said: “we should just wait and see.” This is different to his stance on Monday, when he said he was “looking forward to hopefully selecting Rio for squads in the future.”
Asked for his opinion on Ferdinand’s trip, he said: “I don’t have any serious thoughts on it. The fact is I was disappointed when he couldn’t accept our invitation. What he actually does now and how he operates in the coming couple of weeks, that’s his business and his club’s business. I’m only interested in the players I’ve got here. That’s where I prefer to have my focus.”
Whilst Hodgson wasn’t prepared to criticise the trip, sensibly acknowledging that he has no idea what the club had planned for him in this time off, Steven Gerrard has been happy to stick the knife in, suggesting that Rio has chosen not to play for England as it is not a priority for him like it is for Gerrard.
It appears as though that unlike the fans, the Liverpool captain is a country over club man, claiming that representing your country is “pinnacle” of anyone’s career.
“Playing for England is the pinnacle of everyone’s career,” said Gerrard. “If I’m not playing [against San Marino], I’ll be very disappointed, which shows what it means to me. First of all, I don’t know if Rio has turned his back on it. I don’t know the details from his side. But that’s what I want to achieve; help take this team to a World Cup in Brazil. At my age, there’s no better stage for a footballer to play on. Especially after beating Brazil, on our day, with a full-strength squad, we’re capable of beating the best. I have my own personal programme I stick to, but that’s the same as any other player. Two days of recovery after a game, taking it easy so I’m fine.”