Here are the facts. John Terry, England’s captain and central defender, is stripped of his title after being charged with racial abuse of Anton Ferdinand. The trial is yet to take place. He gets picked to play in the Euros nevertheless, and Rio Ferdinand, Anton’s brother and Terry’s longstanding partner in central defence for England, is left out entirely. Hodgson invokes non-fitness and non-ability related ‘footballing reasons’. But injuries force Hodgson to re-pick his team, and Martin Kelly, a 22 year old who has played less than five minutes of international football for England, gets called up. Rio, previous captain and holder of 81 caps, is still ignored. Even after we lost even more experience this week through injury to Frank Lampard. Rio cracks, and his representative lets rip.
Let's be clear - @rioferdy5 isn't going to the Euros purely because his brother was probably racially abused by John Terry. Shameful.—
Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) June 03, 2012
It is obvious by now that the real reason Ferdinand isn’t allowed to represent his country is due to fears over tension with John Terry. And I find it telling that, despite seeing several friends rush to retweet condemnations of Rio, no sports journalists have stepped forward on that front. Henry Winter has explicitly sympathised, and Lineker has acknowledged the facts. But nor have they been quick to attack Hodgson. And that, it seems, is about right to me.
A shambles became inevitable once the allegations about Terry arose. True or false, the irresolvable dilemma was that two men otherwise likely to be picked to play together could no longer be expected to do so. Ignoring such tension would be superhuman.
But so, it seems, would be finding a solution which didn’t involve leaving out at least one of them, and thereby necessarily committing an injustice: shafting Ferdinand when he did nothing, or axing Terry when he may have done nothing. So long as Rio’s form remained patchy and there were other strong candidates available, the lie about the reason for his omission could be told with at least an ounce of believability. But now the deception is obvious, and anyone who denies their ability to understand why Ferdinand feels entitled to express his hurt publicly is only kidding themselves.
Was there an alternative? Would being honest from Day One have worked better? A statement from the manager conceding a player wouldn’t be joining the squad regardless of his quality would have hung over the tournament in precisely the way it will now. And it would have done nothing to soothe the sense of injustice. But I really can’t resent Hodgson or the FA for failing to steer us peacefully through this saga. It was a true trilemma doomed to destroy the team’s spirit whichever way it unfolded. So I don’t condemn anyone. And, assuming we disappoint for the umpteenth time, unless Terry is found guilty then we’ll never get closure in the form of a person to blame. Shit happens, and it doesn’t always have a source.