KRAKOW: England manager Roy Hodgson has expanded on the “footballing decisions” which prompted him to omit Manchester United veteran Rio Ferdinand from his squad for Euro 2012 despite a number of defensive injuries.

Hodgson, seeking to clear the air ahead of Monday’s opening group match against France, had been engulfed in controversy over suspicions that the Ferdinand omission stemmed from concern about the John Terry/AntonĀ  Ferdinand racist comment allegations.

Interviewed on BBC Radio, he said: “I was somewhat surprised when the debate arose again. There was obviously no question with the players that we had and the cover that we already had for centre-backs in the squad, when Gary Cahill got injured, to be frank there was never any thought in my mind that I would call up Rio Ferdinand as a cover player.

“I don’t think Rio Ferdinand is a player you select to cover the players you’ve chosen. I think when you chose Ferdinand with his 81 caps and his experience you choose him to put him in the team. So my thoughts immediately turned to what young players we could bring along that would benefit from the experience. We turned to Martin Kelly, who had been with us before on the Norway trip. Rio’s name never really featured in the discussions.”

Hodgson said he has chosen his starting line-up for Monday but would not announce it until after he told the players themselves. It is expected that Chelsea captain Terry will be partnered in central defence by Joleon Lescott who was outstanding in Manchester City’s Premier League title-winning campaign.

Expanding on his preference for these two – plus Phil Jones and Phil Jagielka – ahead of Ferdinand, Hodgson added: “Rio has no reason to fear for his international future. All the time he keeps playing, I’ll keep watching him.

“The fact is, in the last couple of years he hasn’t played many games for England, which is of course one of the factors I took into account when I made my decision. He’d only played three games in just over two years, but he will always be a contender for a place in the England team. My respect for him should go a lot further than just asking him to come along to a tournament to be a player to cover.”

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