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Rio mouths off again

Just when you thought the mood around England was improving – that press, players and fans alike were for once recognising our limitations but being cautiously optimistic for the future – along comes Rio Ferdinand with another outburst.

The 33-year-old defender (pictured) has slammed England manager Roy Hodgson in The Sun, stating that the side’s younger players were underused at the Euros and the tactics were too defensive.

"I am a fan of The Ox and I wanted to see more of him but in the end he finished up as a spectator," he said.

"Phil Jones is one of the most adaptable players we have in our country and where was he? When we need to take the ball from midfield, run 40 yards with it and put the other team on the back foot, he is the man for the job.

“We will now have to wait until the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, provided we qualify, to see how good he can be at the highest level.

“Expectations were low so the manager had a free shot to find out about our youngsters and I feel it was a missed opportunity."

It’s difficult to know where to begin with all this. The obvious point is that these are the words of a bitter man who is, somewhat understandably, annoyed and gutted about being left out of the side.

It would be easy, therefore, to dismiss out of hand his comments and ask the question: who, other than Rio Ferdinand, cares what Rio Ferdinand has to say?

England’s exit

After all, England’s elimination at the Euros had nothing whatsoever to do with defending, so Ferdinand patently wouldn’t have made a difference. If anything, it was only our defending that saw us as far as we managed.

That would be unfair, however, as Rio isn’t talking about his own claim. Rather, his comments are about players at the other end of the field; so let’s try and examine them for any substance, shall we?

I have some sympathy with his opinion of Oxlade-Chamberlain. While he didn’t take the tournament by storm in his game against France, The Ox was very much muzzled by his, rightful, desire to stick to the system and not leave his teammates exposed.

I think he did said job very well and was unlucky to lose his place. Indeed, had he been given greater opportunity to roam subsequently, he could have added something to England’s threat.

But it’s another thing altogether to suggest the 18-year-old could’ve been a tournament changer.

The notion that, if he had played against Italy, England would have strolled on, is patently absurd. Not least, because we actually played some of our finest attacking football in years during the first half.

Nevertheless, it is when we get to Rio’s comments about Jones that things really start to look skewed.

Of course Jones is adaptable; that’s the reason Hodgson included him in the squad. But he was always there mainly as defensive cover, and looked distinctly unimpressive when tested in the friendlies, regardless.

Jones is not the messiah

Jones is not and never has been the marauding midfield dynamo Ferdinand attempts to paint him. He has scored on the odd burst forward for Manchester United, but if anything his form dipped as the season went on and he looked spent by the end.

And this idea that because expectations were low Hodgson had a “free shot”, which he wasted; who is Rio trying to kid?

Expectations may have started at rock-bottom but they went up swiftly, precisely because Hodgson was brave enough to play youngsters like Welbeck and unleash Walcott against Sweden.

Finally, tournaments only come around every two years. You do not go into a tournament to blood players for the next one; you go into win. This means playing your best 11 available and going for it.

I’ve left Rio’s best quote for last though, specifically on the performance of Pirlo.

"If Pirlo was English, would he have made the squad let alone been on the pitch? I don't know as his qualities may have been overlooked... not by just the current manager but maybe those before him too," Ferdinand said.

If Pirlo was English and playing football here, Rio, he would be our captain. The thing is, we simply don’t produce players like him, because we coach the game so badly and don’t place any emphasis on skill and ball retention.

Instead, we have players like Phil Jones. There’s a thought for your next tweet Rio.

By Ian Ford

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