It’s black and white: John Terry and Rio Ferdinand are poles apart
On the face of it Roy Hodgson has picked a visionary path by opting to give youth a chance at Euro 2012 – but to accept that view without question would be to avoid the elephant in the room that threatens to blacken the reputation of the new England manager and has split the nation down the middle.
When Hodgson declared that he was omitting Rio Ferdinand “for football reasons” it was a controversial statement that did not sit comfortably with a large section of the football community who feared that this was a convenient way of side-stepping the rift between John Terry and the brother of Anton Ferdinand, the player the Chelsea skipper is accused of racially abusing.
Given the chance to reinstate Rio to the England squad following the double fracture to the jaw that has ruled Gary Cahill out of Euro 2012, Hodgson has this afternoon opted for the inexperienced Liverpool defender Martin Kelly – a right back! Aside from Terry, this means that England’s only remaining recognised centre backs are Joleon Lescott, Phil Jagielka and Phil Jones.
To suggest that the Manchester United defender is out of form or unfit are hugely exaggerated. Ferdinand made 38 appearances for United this season and was ever present in the critical final stages.
Anyone who now doubts that Hodgson has been influenced by the knowledge that Terry and Ferdinand have fallen out would be naive at the very least.
Ferdinand indicated as much when he tweeted to his 2.8 million followers “What reasons?????!!!” as he openly questioned Hodgson’s “football reasons” stance over his squad selection that will send England into a major tournament as the most unpopular national team ever to leave these shores.
Forget the simplistic argument that a man is innocent until proven guilty. Dismiss any suggestion that Terry’s inclusion will improve England’s chances in Poland and the Ukraine. Do not be sidetracked by the fury in certain quarters that Liverpool will have six players in the squad of 23. The reason for England fans turning against their country is summed up in two words: John Terry.
Terry, who will get the chance to clear his name in court after Euro 2012, denies the charges against him. In the meantime, he has damaged England more than any player in the history of the game – and the tragedy is that Terry, Hodgson and the Football Association all fail to recognise this fact.
The reality is that Terry’s toxic presence in this England squad is like a cancer that has eaten away at the very heart and soul of the nation’s football team.
Even if England did over-perform and do better than expected, for millions of football fans any success at Euro 2012 with Terry in the team would leave a bitter taste.
Whether or not Terry is found guilty of racism, the real sting in the tail is that England go to a major tournament defending the reputation of a man who has been accused of racism. To do so in a tournament where the hosts have a reputation for failing to tackle racism only magnifies that position. To omit a player because he had the strength of character to support his brother and make a stand against racism makes England look weak on an issue where we have done more good than any country in Europe.
When the new England manager said he does not care about Euro 2012 because his real focus is the next World Cup, he indicated he was going to give youth a chance. But that statement coupled with his omission of Ferdinand in favour of Terry may come back to haunt him over the next couple of weeks.