‘I had to choose one’ – Hodgson couldn’t pick Ferdinand with Terry at Euro 2012

Roy Hodgson has revealed that he did have to make a choice between John Terry and Rio Ferdinand for his England squad at Euro 2012 due to the high-profile racism case against the former Chelsea defender.

As Gareth Southgate makes one of the biggest decisions that will define his time as England manager in selecting his World Cup squad, Hodgson opened up on one of the toughest calls he had to make while England boss.

After England qualified for the 2012 European Championships, Hodgson was faced with choosing between Chelsea centre-back Terry and Manchester United defender Ferdinand, but given the pair’s wealth of experience and pedigree at international level, the decision to leave out Ferdinand was deemed at the time to be for ‘non-footballing reasons’.

Terry was accused of using racist language towards Rio Ferdinand’s brother Anton during a game between QPR and Chelsea at Loftus Road in October 2011, for which he received a four-game ban and a £220,000 fine from the Football Association (FA).

However, the former Chelsea and England captain was cleared in court after being charged over the incident, and has always denied abusing Ferdinand.

Speaking exclusively to Sky Sports News, Hodgson has revisited the incident over a decade ago which shaped his thought process ahead of the tournament co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine.

“Obviously, the furore which came about as a result of the Anton Ferdinand and John Terry situation was a massive topic at the time and a very controversial one,” said Hodgson.

“I’m not so certain, having got to know Rio a little bit in a conversation I had with him a little bit later on that he and John couldn’t have got along. But they did split not only the public opinion over which one was the better player, but they split the mass media as well.

“One had a powerful backing from one group of newspapers, and the other had powerful backing from the other. There was a fear that the animosity – if nothing else between the two newspapers and two factions – could cause us problems.

“I couldn’t go out at the time – and I think people now understand this – and say I can’t take both of them because of what’s going on [with the case] and therefore had to choose one. But I did have to choose one, basically, and then I had to stand by that decision.

John Terry, Ashley Cole and Rio Ferdinand all worked under Eriksson
Image: John Terry, Ashley Cole and Rio Ferdinand all worked under Eriksson

“They were different players and I thought at the time that I would’ve liked them both, but at the time I had to make a choice – I chose John. But to Rio’s great credit, when we needed him in the next qualifying campaign, in a match against Montenegro, we were desperately short of a centre-back and I had always admired him and he was playing well.

“I met him and asked if he would come back and play again, and fortunately – so I thought – he agreed, although I knew he had a problem with his back and I knew that he and Sir Alex [Ferguson] had come to the decision that he needed to rest during the international break.

“When we left the hotel and had our meeting, I was quite jubilant but unfortunately he had to pull out after discussions with the medical team at Manchester United. If he added England onto his duties with playing for United at that time, it was decided that it would be too much for him.

Rio Ferdinand has spoken about the racist abuse his younger brother Anton experienced during the John Terry case.
Image: Rio Ferdinand has spoken about the racist abuse his younger brother Anton experienced during the John Terry case

Anton Ferdinand took part in a BBC documentary in 2020 called Football, Racism and Me that looked back on his clash with Terry, in which it was said that the former Aston Villa assistant head coach had declined to speak to him or participate in the show.

However, Terry has now disputed that claim and, in an interview with The Times, states he has reached out to both Anton Ferdinand and his brother Rio, who labelled his former international team-mate an “idiot” in his 2014 autobiography.

Hodgson was also asked if he felt compromised by the Football Association in his decision to take one and not the other to Euro 2012.

He added: “When you’re working for an organisation, you’re an employee and you have to take the organisation’s views into account and that your decisions can bring about enormous consequences for the organisation.

John Terry and Rio Ferdinand celebrate after the former's goal against Hungary in 1996
Image: Terry and Ferdinand celebrate during their playing days

“It wasn’t just the organisation putting me under pressure in any way – they were fully aware of the situation. I don’t ever remember David Bernstein [the FA chairman], ever telling me, ‘look, you can’t take both’. Trevor Brooking was an important factor for me as my right-hand man and an advisor in this situation.

“They both made it clear to me that they felt it wasn’t going to work. It wasn’t going to work between the two, and it wasn’t going to work between the rival media factions and it wasn’t going to work between the public and most importantly it could divide the dressing room and make like very difficult there.

“What you don’t want is people in the dressing room siding with one or the other and I’ve had that experience before when I went back to Inter Milan in 1999. There were two major factions – the Diego Simeone faction and the Ronaldo faction. They’re two very powerful men and leaders so it made the dressing room very difficult to manage.”

Anton Ferdinand refuses to shake hands with John Terry in a game between QPR and Chelsea in 2012
Image: Ferdinand refuses to shake hands with Terry in 2012

Terry was stripped of the England captaincy for a second time by the FA after being charged by the Crown Prosecution Service – a move that led to the resignation of manager Fabio Capello.

While he was cleared in court, Terry then retired from international duty after the FA opened its case against him, although he continued playing for Chelsea and then Villa until ending his career in 2018.

Asked directly whether he was racist during the interview, Terry said: “No, I’m not – racism is unacceptable,” and appeared to suggest his portrayal in Ferdinand’s documentary has ended any hope of talks between the two parties.

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Six-time Premier League winner Rio Ferdinand says his parents were the inspiration for his OBE for services to sport and charity. Also highlighting and putting pressure to make changes for better diversity in football is important.

“It’s been 10 years now, then to see the documentary and being made to look the bad guy in there… it’s done. There’s a line in the sand drawn.

“Anton can have his opinion. My opinion is very clear, I was not guilty in the court of law which is the biggest form of our law in our country. No higher.”

Terry did profess to feeling sympathy for Ferdinand, saying: “Yes, of course. He’s had some tough times but I’ve also had some tough times.”

Ferdinand: I was scared to speak out over Terry case

John Terry and Anton Ferdinand
Image: John Terry and Anton Ferdinand were at the centre of a high-profile racism case following a match between QPR and Chelsea in 2011

Anton Ferdinand says he was scared to speak out during his high-profile racism case against John Terry in 2011.

Ferdinand said his silence was in part because that was what he had been advised, but also because he was afraid of the ‘whirlwind’ his comments would cause.

“I didn’t feel like I was the right representation of our community in terms of speaking out and I don’t think that I could have at the time anyway,” he told Sky Sports News in 2020.

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Anton Ferdinand told Sky Sports News that he’s concerned by England’s form heading into the World Cup.

“I was scared to speak out and I see that now. I was scared of the whirlwind of what happened, the abuse on social media, I couldn’t get away from it, it was always there.

“I felt like I just couldn’t speak, not just because it would harm the court case, which was being drummed into me a lot at the time.

“I did something that I wish I hadn’t done, which was I left it in the hands of the authorities and they failed me.”

Hate Won’t Win

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As we celebrate Black History Month, Les Ferdinand discusses who his hero was growing up and the impact they had on his life.

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