Pardon me for stating the blindingly obvious, but I was always under the naive impression that the coaches of sports teams picked their players on the basis of skill, form, experience and fitness.
Why then, one wonders, is Roy Hodgson’s England going into the Euro 2012 championships minus a player whose defensive qualities are bywords for excellence, who showed peak form in the 36 games he played for his club last season, possesses unrivalled experience and has amply demonstrated his injuries are an issue of the past?
Not only has Hodgson – vocally supported by FA chairman, David Bernstein – completely ignored Rio Ferdinand’s obvious credentials, he has insulted one of Europe’s all-time, premier defenders and a consistent trophy-winner in the most insidious manner.
With the loss of Gary Cahill to a broken jaw and only Man United’s junior utility player, Phil Jones, in the squad to partner John Terry, Hodgson has now drafted in the largely-untested full-back Martin Kelly as an understudy.
At 6ft 3 inches, Kelly’s sole advantage over Ferdinand is an inch in height. Any other comparisons pale into insignificance, because you can’t liken platinum to pewter, even if the Manchester United star is 33 and the Liverpudlian is 22.
And it’s not just on the field that Ferdinand is an icon. In training and behind the scenes he is revered by teammates for his positive attitude, commitment and lifestyle, particularly as a figurehead in the campaign to kick racism out of soccer.
What is sickening, then, is the England management’s reticence in explaining what most commentators know full well is the real reason for snubbing Ferdinand: the charge of racial abuse hanging over Terry, after a dust-up with Rio’s brother Anton last season in a QPR-Chelsea game.
Hence, England’s ability to take on – and hopefully beat – the best in Europe is predicated not on selecting the finest available. Instead it rests on avoiding a potential dressing-room conflict between two highly experienced players, who might not like each other, but are professional enough on the field and honour-bound to put personal animus aside in the name of the England cause.
Terry’s case will come to court after the championships are over and, one way or another, he’ll receive justice.
So far as Ferdinand is concerned, despite his loyalty to England on 81 separate occasions, he’ll never receive a similar measure of fairness from the English FA.
And it’s to their abiding shame, not his, for solving a dilemma by the most craven of means.