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Mar 21, 2013

Hodgson: Door open for Ferdinand

England manager Roy Hodgson has not shut the door on Rio Ferdinand's international career, despite the player's withdrawal from the squad to face San Marino and Montenegro.

After being assured that Ferdinand, 34, was fit enough to participate in the World Cup qualifying games Hodgson was left in a difficult situation when the Manchester United defender withdrew, citing a desire to stick to a personal fitness programme.

Hodgson previously left Ferdinand out of his squad for Euro 2012 for footballing reasons, but he was unwilling to rule out another international return for the player in the future.

He said: "I think we should just wait and see, I think it's more a question of how his injury situation will impact upon him playing for England, so we'll have to wait and see what happens in the future.

"At the moment it's speculation about a longer-term future whereas my focus is on these next two games, which are important for us in our bid to qualify. I am happy with the squad we've got.

"We'll see what happens in the future but what happens during this period of time when he is looking after himself, it is up to us to make sure that we look after ourselves."

Hodgson confirmed he had no regrets selecting Ferdinand, saying: "No. I don't. When I chose that squad I gave a lot of thought to who deserved to be in and who could help us win the two games.

"Rio was one of them. I was disappointed when he couldn't accept the invitation. It was a pity it couldn't come about. But we move on with this squad of players."

Tottenham's Steven Caulker and Newcastle's Steven Taylor were subsequently called up to replace Ferdinand and there was also speculation that midfielder Michael Carrick could drop into defence, a role he has performed at club level.

But Hodgson dismissed any notion of that happening and said that all four defenders in his squad, Joleon Lescott, Chris Smalling, Caulker and Taylor were competing for a starting berth.

"To accept that (Carrick could play in defence) I have to accept that we have problems in central defence," he added. "I think we have four very good players here. Players who play at top clubs in the Premier League, players who have got experience in the sense of Lescott and Smalling, who has got a few games behind him.

"Players like Steven Taylor, who has played around 29 games for the Under-21s and helped Newcastle to an excellent finish last year and a quarter-final spot in the Europa League. So as far as I am concerned I would be loath to start using people like Michael Carrick who has been selected for his prowess as a midfield player.

"It would be enormously harsh on the four centre backs we have got here. All of whom are vying for a place in the team and would be desperate for a place in the team."

England captain Steven Gerrard was not keen to comment on Ferdinand's situation, but revealed his disappointment that he had been unable to meet up with the squad as planned.

"I don't think it's for me to comment," Gerrard said. "That's something for the manager to deal with to be honest. I just look at the players in the squad and worry about those players really.

"Of course it's disappointing Rio's not here, because he's a fantastic player and he's in top form, and it would've been nice for him to be here, but he's not, we move on without him and training's been really good."

Asked if England can cope without Ferdinand, Gerrard added: "Yes I do, certainly on the evidence I've seen in training the last few days. Repeating what the manager said, the four guys have been working hard and training well and they are all pushing for places.

I'm confident that they can not only do the job (on Friday night) but on Tuesday night as well."

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