Hodgson: The right time for Rio Ferdinand to step aside for England

Rio Ferdinand arrives at the Man Utd Player of the Year awards. Photo: PA

Rio Ferdinand's call for England to build around a new generation of defenders following his international retirement has been echoed by manager Roy Hodgson.

The 34-year-old announced the end of his 81-cap England career this morning, a day before Hodgson names a squad to face the Republic of Ireland and Brazil in friendlies this summer.

It was thought Ferdinand had a chance of being involved despite the furore that accompanied his withdrawal in March, when he was recalled for crucial World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro only to withdraw citing an "intricate and pre-planned training regime".

The Manchester United defender's decision to make himself unavailable takes away an element of uncertainty that has shrouded England's defence since Ferdinand was left out of Hodgson's Euro 2012 squad for "footballing reasons".

Ferdinand, though, always suspected it was a direct result of John Terry's presence.

Having told Hodgson of his plans in a cordial telephone call yesterday, he has now formally passed the baton to younger men.

"After a great deal of thought, I have decided the time is right for me to retire from international football," said Ferdinand.

"At the age of 34, I feel it is right for me to stand aside and let the younger players come through, which allows me to concentrate on my club career.

"The team looks in great shape and there is an influx of young, talented players coming through the ranks which bodes well for the future.

"I regard it as a great honour and a privilege to have represented my country at every level from under-17s upwards.

"I have always been very proud to play for England. I would like to wish Roy and the team all the best for future tournaments.

"A big thank you to all the fans, managers, coaching staff and players that I have worked alongside - the journey has been incredible."

Hodgson was full of praise for the way Ferdinand had conducted himself having resolved to retire and echoed his beliefs that the time was right to focus on other options at the heart of defence.

"I respect the decision and it was good of Rio to call me before I actually needed to select a squad," he told Sky Sports News.

"I think his sentiments are admirable, fantastic. I agree with him; I think we do have a crop of interesting young players coming through and I think it's good he accepts maybe it's the right time for him to step aside.

"We should concentrate - as Rio suggests in his statement - on the future. We should concentrate on the the younger players, and some of them are not that young, who have had to stand back for a long period of time for Rio. Now it's their time.

"I wish him well for the future and thank him for the very kind sentiments he expressed with regard to the team in the future."

Despite the confusion over Ferdinand's previous call-up and subsequent withdrawal, Hodgson insisted he was surprised by the decision.

"I guess I was," added Hodgson.

"I didn't expect it. It's obviously something he thought about himself and kept his cards close to his chest. It was as big a surprise to me yesterday when he called me as it was for the general public today."

Ferdinand is expected to sign a new contract with Manchester United when David Moyes replaces Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm.

Ferguson said earlier this month that he felt Ferdinand had just had his best ever season.

It seemed like an extreme statement but it is true that Ferdinand has had an outstanding campaign.

He collected his sixth Premier League title winners' medal on Sunday and made 33 appearances overall, even scoring the splendid late winner against Swansea that ensured Ferguson's final game at Old Trafford was a victorious one.

His performances would certainly have brought an international recall were it not for the fact he pulled out of those World Cup qualifiers, having previously highlighted how keen he was to play for England.

However, Ferguson was sceptical about the defender's chances of balancing international and club involvement given the way he manages the long-standing back complaint that at one point threatened his entire career.

And now, with a new manager to impress at Old Trafford, Ferdinand has reached the same conclusion.

Ferdinand, attending United's end-of-season awards, later told MUTV: "It's not an easy thing to do to retire from playing for your country.

"I'm as passionate as the next man and I've always loved doing that. But there comes a time when your body tells you what to do.

"If I want to remain fit and well and playing consistent football at the top level it had to give somewhere and international football was that."