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May, 16, 2012

Rio omission a 'footballing decision'

England boss Roy Hodgson has insisted he left Rio Ferdinand out of his Euro 2012 squad for footballing reasons, and not because his presence alongside John Terry could have created an unwanted distraction in the camp.

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Chelsea captain Terry will stand trial after the tournament for allegedly racially abusing Rio's brother, Anton. Terry firmly denies the accusation. There had been speculation as to whether or not Rio would be willing to line up alongside Terry in Poland and Ukraine.

Hodgson has swerved that potential problem by opting not to select Rio, a call he made because the Manchester United man has, in his eyes, shown signs of decline in recent months - and because he has been out of the international picture of late.

"Rio is a man I've respected as a player and as a person," Hodgson said. "I don't know him personally but like everybody in the room I've seen enough of him over the years to know what a fine player and good person he is.

"I had to decide on the basis of what I've seen in recent months, and also that Rio has only played once for England last year.

"On a footballing basis I wanted people like [Phil] Jones because he provides cover at right-back in the absence of Kyle Walker so it's purely a footballing decision. It was a hard phone call to make but I hope people can understand it's based purely on football."

Only two players - Wayne Rooney and Patrice Evra - have made more Premier League starts than Rio for Manchester United this season. "I've never once said that it was because Rio hadn't played enough games," Hodgson said.

"I don't think he can't play one game after the other. There's no question of me not being aware that he's been playing games for United, and I'm not prepared to go down the route he's not able to play one game after the other, although I know Sir Alex has hinted at that."

Hodgson has explained the cancellation of next week's training camp in Malaga. "I was quite looking forward to the trip, but I suddenly realised with Chelsea in the Champions League final, that would be four players missing, and I realised that Rob Green wouldn't be able to go because he's playing in the Championship play-off final," he said.

"And Manchester City, winning the title in incredible circumstances, they've been involved in all sorts of celebrations and triumph marches, so some of those players would find it hard to be on a plane on Monday.

"So my first thought was to move it back, and to leave on the Wednesday, buy a couple of days more time. Then it was obvious that if we were going to do that, we'd have to fill in the group with a lot of other players - from the Under-21 squad, from the Olympic squad - which of course is to some extent counter-productive, because we want to be working with the players we want to play at the Euros.

"So it came from the FA itself, which said, 'Why don't you stay in England?' And I thought that was a better idea, so we decided on that, and we stay in the North West, Manchester, and we fly directly from there to Oslo [to face Norway in a friendly]."

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