Roy Hodgson has no regrets over initial inclusion of Rio Ferdinand

Roy Hodgson insists he has no regrets at having selected Rio Ferdinand in his initial squad for England's World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro.

But, with the defender now working as a television pundit in Qatar for Friday's game, the national manager will address whether the veteran still has a future at this level after the forthcoming double-header.

Ferdinand, who withdrew from the squad after meeting Hodgson face to face on Sunday, citing the complexities of the "pre-planned and intricate" medical programme he follows to combat a chronic back complaint, has defended his decision to make the 15-hour round trip to the Gulf where he will train at the luxury Aspire Academy before working for al-Jazeera on Friday evening. Hodgson refused to reveal whether the 34-year-old had told him during their meeting in London that he intended to work as a pundit, but reiterated he was disappointed the Manchester United defender had been forced to withdraw.

Hodgson, asked whether he was surprised Ferdinand had since chosen to travel to Doha, said: "It's not my business, quite frankly. It's not my business to interfere with an individual player and his club. I don't think this is the right moment in time for me to be discussing Rio and what's happened now and what will happen in the future. I want to concentrate on these two matches and the players I'm working with. We will wait and see what happens in the future.

"I was disappointed, and I've made this very clear, that Rio was not able to accept the invitation. He couldn't accept it for the reasons you know.

"But from that moment on, my focus was on who would replace him and who I will be working with. They deserve my respect as well. They're here. They want to be here and to do a good job. I'm entitled to give them my full focus and attention, and to give the matches my full attention.

"I wouldn't have done anything different. I don't know what I can do any different. Basically speaking, the idea of having squad announcements is to announce the squad you have selected. There are occasions when I communicate with players I'm leaving out of the squad, especially if they've been in before and I've got to put someone fresh in. It might have been naive but I always believed people who are selected are going to want to be there and pleased to be selected and don't need to be told in advance.

"When I chose that squad of players I gave a lot of thought to who deserved to be in the squad and could help us win the two games. Rio was one of them. So it was a pity it couldn't come about this time, but we move on with this squad of players. I'd prefer our conversation to stay between us. It was good we had a chance to talk face to face and for him to explain the situation, but I don't want to discuss what was and what wasn't discussed."

Ferdinand, whose aborted international comeback has dominated the buildup to these fixtures, is attending the Aspire Academy, a favourite of United for winter breaks, where he will undertake his training regime having flown overnight on Wednesday to Qatar. "Gonna check into Aspire, state of the art facilities. Nice!" he tweeted upon his arrival before seeking to justify his decision to make the trek to the Gulf. "1) Flown out for some pre-planned downtime… with a bit of punditry thrown in for a game I would have watched anyway… 2) No different from what I done on the last 10day international break."

Hodgson stressed there was "no evidence" Arsenal had sought to rest Jack Wilshere – another notable absentee here – during this international window, with the midfielder expected to return from an ankle problem against Reading four days after Tuesday's awkward game in Montenegro. That daunting contest in Podgorica against the current leaders of Group H is already on the management's mind, with the coach Gary Neville dispatched to Chisinau to scout Montenegro in Friday's game against Moldova.

The manager is loth to be overly influenced in his selection by the fact that a quartet of his players are one booking away from missing Tuesday's game, including the centre-half Joleon Lescott. However, one of the four, Ashley Cole, is expected to sit out the match at the Stadio Olimpico with one eye on Tuesday. The captain, Steven Gerrard, will feature.

"I'm not tired, I'm fine," said Gerrard, who has played every minute of Liverpool's Premier League campaign to date. "I have my own personal [recovery] programme which I stick to, but that's the same as any other player: two days of recovery after a game and I'm fine. Playing for England is the pinnacle of everyone's career. If I'm not playing in this match I'll be very disappointed, which shows what it means to me."

Powered by article was written by Dominic Fifield in Serravalle, for The Guardian on Thursday 21st March 2013 23.00 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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