Hodgson pleads for England unity

Rio Ferdinand has been recalled for England's World Cup qualifiers
Rio Ferdinand has been recalled for England's World Cup qualifiers Photo: PA

Roy Hodgson has urged Rio Ferdinand to patch up any differences with Ashley Cole after bringing the Manchester United defender back into his England squad.

Ferdinand gets his recall at the age of 34, 21 months after his last match for his country when Hodgson insisted he was dropped for "footballing reasons".

He is now set to be a key figure when England take on San Marino and Montenegro in crucial World Cup qualifiers later this month.

Ferdinand and Cole clashed after the John Terry race row when Ferdinand endorsed a tweet which referred to Cole as a 'choc ice', a phrase understood to mean someone who is black on the outside but white on the inside.

Hodgson, however, believes the pair can resurrect a defensive partnership for their country. Hodgson, whose selection of Ferdinand represents something of a climbdown, said: "They are very good friends from what I understand but we are talking about a football team here, not purely individuals.

"I would expect the pair of them to do their jobs for England, for Ashley to play as well as he can at left-back and for Rio to do his job at centre-back.

"I don't envisage any problems. If there are any I'll have to deal with them but I hope that the long-term friendship will re-emerge and any unfortunate incidents along the way will be quickly forgotten.

"At the moment he's (Ferdinand)in a rich vein of form. For me it was a no-brainer. We need a good centre-half, he is a good centre-half and he's playing well so I've selected him.

"It's not more complicated than that. There are no sinister reasons behind the selection or his lack of selection in the past."

Hodgson gave a strong hint that Ferdinand could have a prominent role to play against San Marino and Montenegro.

He said: "A player of Rio's calibre and Rio's age, you don't bring them into a squad as back-ups, you bring them into the squad or the team because you want them to make the team better, to give you a better chance of winning.

"So it wouldn't take too much guesswork to work out that he's in the squad in order to play rather than to make up the numbers."

He also floated the prospect of Ferdinand playing a part in the World Cup in Rio next year.

He said: "Who knows what the future holds? I can't give guarantees about the future, 2014 is a long way off but if Rio Ferdinand is still playing the way he is at the moment in 2014 he is going to be a major candidate for a place in the squad."

Another 'prodigal son' returned to Hodgson's 26-man squad in the shape of goalkeeper Ben Foster, who last played for England in November 2010 before taking a sabbatical with chronic back problems.

Foster, 30 next month, has been in superb form for West Brom this season and returns to understudy Joe Hart.

Hodgson said: "We are pleased we have two excellent goalkeepers. Ben is playing very well for his club at the moment and it is good that he has decided after a long absence that he wants to play again."

The news was not so good regarding Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere, who has been ruled out for three weeks with an ankle injury.

"It's disappointing for Jack," said Hodgson. "He had enjoyed a good spell of playing regularly after such a long lay-off. He did so well in a cameo appearance against Sweden and then against Brazil he was man of the match.

"So to find we can't use him again is a major blow - but we still have a strong squad."

With Everton's Phil Jagielka injured, it includes Tottenham centre-back Michael Dawson, who last played for the Three Lions in March 2011, plus his Spurs midfield team-mate Scott Parker - whose last game was at Euro 2012. Joleon Lescott, who has played sparingly for Manchester City recently, misses out.

The England boss, whose team lie in second place in Group H, two points behind Montenegro, also tried to play down the trip to Podgorica.

He said: "I still don't think these games are necessarily decisive.

"But it is important to go and get a result there. We go there to win and if we do we help our cause and make the autumn that bit easier."