Rio 'gutted' to be left out
Rio Ferdinand appears to have conceded his England career is over after his "gutting" omission from Roy Hodgson's Euro 2012 squad.
Ferdinand, who has been selected in England's last four World Cup squads, was left out of the 23-man party for next month's European Championship finals.
Hodgson, who made the controversial decision to pick John Terry ahead of Ferdinand, claimed the Manchester United defender was not dropped because of the race row that has engulfed Terry and Ferdinand's brother Anton.
The new England head coach instead claimed that the 33-year-old could no longer be deemed good enough to perform at international level - a decision that has clearly disappointed the 81-cap defender.
Ferdinand took to Twitter on Wednesday night to express his sadness and drop the clearest hint yet that, whilst he has always said he would never turn his back on England, he accepts that it is likely he will never play for them again.
"Absolutely loved playing for England....to say I'm gutted is an understatement of the highest order...," Ferdinand said.
Hodgson cut an irritated figure at Wembley on Wednesday afternoon as he defended his decision to axe Ferdinand.
Hodgson, who handed call-ups to uncapped duo John Ruddy and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, chose Terry ahead of Ferdinand despite the fact that the Chelsea captain will stand trial on July 9 for allegedly racially abusing Ferdinand's brother Anton during the Blues' defeat at QPR last October. Terry denies the charge.
The former Fulham manager spoke proudly of the group he had selected for the championship, but was then hit with a barrage of questions about the whether he had snubbed Ferdinand because of concerns the centre-back would not be able to get along with Terry in light of the court case.
Matters came to a head towards the end of the 64-year-old's press conference at the home of English football when he bristled at the constant questioning over his selection.
"Are we still on Rio Ferdinand? Are we ever going to get off the Rio Ferdinand [subject]?" Hodgson said.
"I mean, there are 23 men in the squad, we are preparing for the future and we seem to be discussing one man until the cows come home."
Hodgson was keen to spell out that Ferdinand had been omitted not because of the race row or because he could not cope with the rigours of tournament football - as his club manager Sir Alex Ferguson had claimed - but simply because he thinks the player is no longer good enough.
"I selected John Terry for footballing reasons and left out Rio Ferdinand for footballing reasons," Hodgson added.
"I had to decide on the basis of what I have seen over the last few months. Rio has only played once for England in the last year and three times since 2010.
"Rio has done exceptionally well this year, has played lots of games through injury and has sometimes played three times in a week. I would be lying if I said that was the major reason for not selecting him, it was purely on other footballing decisions."
Although there was no sense of anger in Ferdinand's tweet, it would be understandable if the former West Ham man was aggrieved at his omission given the wealth of experience he has at international level.
Hodgson called the defender, who has been troubled by back problems for two years, to explain his decision and says he took the news relatively well.
"He was very graceful," Hodgson said.
"He was obviously disappointed but he wished myself and the team the very best of luck in the tournament."
Terry has vowed to fight "tooth and nail" to clear his name, and insists he is not a racist.
His presence in the squad could prove "toxic" according to some, but Hodgson stood by the former captain's inclusion, saying: "The court case is obviously very unfortunate for him but we must emphasise he is an innocent man until he is proven guilty.
"I realised that when I selected him there would be people who would raise eyebrows but that's the decision that I've made, that's the decision I shall live with."
Hodgson is convinced the court case will not affect Terry's performances in Poland and Ukraine.
"He has had that court case hanging over him for a long period of time now and it certainly didn't distract him in lifting the FA Cup and helping his team reach the Champions League final," Hodgson said.
England squad for Euro 2012: Goalkeepers - Green (West Ham), Hart (Man City) Ruddy (Norwich).
Defenders - Baines (Everton), Cahill (Chelsea), Cole (Chelsea), Johnson (Liverpool), Jones (Man Utd), Lescott (Man City), Terry (Chelsea).
Midfielders - Barry (Man City), Downing (Liverpool), Gerrard (Liverpool), Lampard (Chelsea), Milner (Man City), Parker (Tottenham), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Walcott (Arsenal), Young (Man Utd).
Forwards - Carroll (Liverpool), Rooney (Man Utd), Welbeck (Man Utd), Defoe (Tottenham).