Rio Ferdinand must not be bit-part player for England, says John Cross

Last Updated: 21/03/13 2:15pm

John Cross told the Supplement that Rio Ferdinand deserves his recall to the England squad - but must not be used sparingly.

The Manchester United defender, 34, last played for the Three Lions in 2011 but has been included in Roy Hodgson's party for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro.

"Rio is, on current form, England's best defender; he is a Rolls Royce of a player and a big character."

John Cross

Former Fulham and West Brom chief Hodgson omitted Ferdinand from his 23-man troop for Euro 2012, citing that he wasn't sure the ex-Leeds man could play two games in a short timeframe.

And it appears the 65-year-old may still have those concerns with newspaper reports suggesting Ferdinand will sit out the clash with minnows San Marino and return to the side for the meeting with Montenegro in Podgorica.

Mirror writer Cross said: "Rio is, on current form, England's best defender; he is a Rolls Royce of a player and a big character and if he is up for it and wants to play (he should be picked).

"Ferdinand is playing well for Manchester United, played well in the Champions League, which is the ultimate test, and shown that he can handle playing two games in such a short space of time; he did that against Real Madrid and Chelsea.


"However, if Roy doesn't think Rio can play two games in quick succession at international level, then I don't think he should compromise the squad by picking him.

"The People are reporting he might rest Rio for San Marino and spare him for Montenegro, but that might damage the performance of a Michael Dawson or Chris Smalling against San Marino as they might think:' I won't be playing in the next game no matter what I do'."

Independent scribe Paddy Barclay feels Hodgson's apparent reluctance to field Ferdinand in both qualifiers could stem from not wanting to upset Man United boss Sir Alex Ferguson.

Meanwhile, Times reporter Martin Samuel reckons the crunch game with Montenegro, who lead England by two points at the top of Group A after four matches, will go a long way to determining Hodgson's future as his country's head coach.

Barclay said: "Ferguson couldn't give a fig about England and will be obstructive at every turn, but Manchester United players make up a lot of the England team so the FA have no choice but to dance around him."

Samuel added: "It was the right decision to recall Rio but he needs a performance against Montenegro, a game which will define Hodgson as England manager.

"If we lose it we might not get to Brazil in 2014 and if we don't get to Brazil in 2014 I don't see how Hodgson can fulfil his contract."