Confusion over the ‘golden generation’ spiralling into obscurity perseveres under Fabio Capello. Although Frank Lampard should not be regarded as a first-teamer by the Italian – or, arguably, André Villas-Boas – he still scored four goals last week to reaffirm that although he is slowing down, his appetite for goals remains voracious. Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand however has little to bail him out.
Overlooked for the matches against Bulgaria and Wales despite appearing on the Manchester United bench prior to the last international break, Ferdinand had started two out of his club’s last three matches and appeared off the bench to shore up a loose defence against Norwich City on Saturday. But there is an air of inevitability that follows Ferdinand around now that he will succumb to another injury, as Capello seeks an ever-present pairing in front of Joe Hart.
Ferdinand has, according to Physio Room’s records, suffered 16 separate niggles and bouts in the last three years and only 11 times has he played for his country in that duration. Then there is also @rioferdy5 – the unwitting moron who tweets devoid of irony and plugs his half-dozen business ventures outside of football, ranging from cr*p Danny Dyer-esque films featuring Danny Dyer to ‘Stay on your feet’ t-shirts, with the odd ill-fated privacy case. He has had oodles to boost his fitness but is so enchanted by his egocentricity that he has morphed into an unprofessional footballer.
He was at least subtly self-deprecating enough to tweet on Monday, ‘Football training at school with the lil man....might have to start joining in.....if selected!’ Oooff!
Form-wise, Capello can also be vindicated by how much Ferdinand has struggled without Nemanja Vidic this season. Vidic, when partnered by Chris Smalling or Jonny Evans, doesn’t tend to miss Ferdinand whereas the latter regularly resembles Robin without Batman when his Serbian partner is absent. Smalling, Evans and Phil Jones aren’t experienced crime fighters just yet.
He has had oodles to boost his fitness but is so enchanted by his egocentricity that he has morphed into an unprofessional footballer.
But it remains illogical that a fit Ferdinand is overlooked for the Three Lions. Selected ahead of him at centre back are Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill – the former exhibiting Sunday league abjectness against Liverpool on Saturday and the latter at the heart of the Premier League’s worst defence. Neither will be great defenders and neither should be considered as the future bedrock of the national side. Joleon Lescott, also omitted, can feel aggrieved.
It can be unhealthy to dwell on the past, but Ferdinand was England’s best player at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups. Obscurely, Sol Campbell and Terry were named in the All-star squads – Campbell was certainly a contender yet Terry was forlorn without Ferdinand in the second-half against Sweden and the last 16 tie against Ecuador. Astonishingly he was even named man of the match for the second game despite being bailed-out by Ashley Cole on one anxious occasion.
And in South Africa, he was conspicuous by his absence as England were run ragged by Germany in Bloemfontein with Terry, whose last-ditch tackles are erroneously construed as great defending when his positioning leaves his him vulnerable, looking distinctly uncomfortable paired with Matthew Upson. Further evidence that Ferdinand is still important to his partner and his team.
Terry’s fitness ensures that he is omnipresent in the England starting line-up, but is fitness everything? Form, equally, if not more crucial, is contradictorily symbolised by Capello with his latest 24-man party not only via the aforementioned defensive selections, but by picking Darren Bent, Andy Carroll and Bobby Zamora ahead of Daniel Sturridge. Gabriel Agbonlahor is at least entitled to an explanation too.
In the past, Capello has played up to his ‘Godfather’ image by stripping Terry of the captaincy and dropping Lampard, only to become a Fredo by debatably reinstating both. Ironic then that Ferdinand, whose performances for England outrank both of his team-mates, should be made an example of.
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