Like Kevin's transformation into a teenager, becoming England coach transforms men into unrecognisable alter-egos. Glenn Hoddle said disabled people were being made to pay for the sins of past lives, Steve McClaren carried an umbrella on the touchline, Fabio Capello asked if Owen Hargreaves may be able to go to the World Cup after 30 seconds of game-time in a season and Sven-Göran Eriksson was duped by the Fake Sheikh. Humiliatingly, Roy Hodgson has succumbed to the ill-effects quicker than his predecessors.
There is only so much latitude you can grant Hodgson for being a thoroughly nice man. The Rio Ferdinand farce has shed further doubt on his credentials as England coach, just 10 months after he was appointed by the Football Association. His dependency on 4-4-2 and members of the national side's past failures are two symptoms of inevitable failure, but they are subjective arguments. His handling of Ferdinand's return to the national team, however, defied common sense.
Ferdinand deserves some flak. He has remained largely dignified throughout his international exile and enthusiastically spoke of his desire to play for England again and his "love" for it. Those soundbites now sound hollow when he (and/or his club manager) has effectively revealed the fitness programme tailored for him prohibits the 34-year-old from playing two games in five days. Why would Hodgson now select Ferdinand if he is physically incapable of playing in next year's World Cup?
Hodgson has not emerged from the Ferdinand farce well
All of this would have been averted had Hodgson communicated with Ferdinand earlier. On the day of last week's squad announcement, Ferdinand had not been contacted and most assumed this was confirmation his spell in the wilderness would extend to two years. Sir Alex Ferguson's love for the word "surprised" is usually a giveaway of personal spin, but when he uttered it to describe Ferdinand's selection it sounded genuine. It was also a damning appraisal of Hodgson's failure to consult him, or Ferdinand, prior to making a decision.
Disconcertingly, Hodgson has done this before. While Liverpool manager, in December 2010 he said Fernando Torres would play against Utrecht in the Europa League, only the caveat was he hadn't checked with the club's medical department and when he belatedly did they informed him Torres couldn't play.
When he did contact Ferguson, the Hokey Cokey started. The Scot suggested on Friday Ferdinand may not join up due to his specialised programme, on Saturday he revealed he would meet up at St. George's Park and then Ferdinand was definitely out and the music stopped on Monday.
Ferdinand played the full 90 minutes for United against Reading on Saturday
The tension which lingered between Ferdinand and Hodgson has barely subsided. Those "football reasons" for the Manchester United defender's Euro 2012 exclusion have never been stood up, as a player who would eventually be charged for racially abusing Ferdinand's brother (and who had had a poorer domestic campaign) was chosen ahead of him, along with other inferior defensive alternatives.
Ferdinand's omission has effectively seen him pledge his loyalty to Ferguson, a manager who staunchly defended his one-time record signing before, during and after an eight-month ban for missing a drug's test in 2003. He is into his 11th season with United and a testimonial will is on the agenda, while the club's quest for a domestic double is a personal and pertinent issue.
Ferguson and Ferdinand's working relationship has been tested at times
Due to his aforementioned ban, Ferdinand missed the opportunity to collect an FA Cup winner's medal in 2004 and it remains the one trophy to have eluded him in his career.
"The FA Cup is an important trophy for us this season. We haven’t won it for 10 years. Rio Ferdinand has never won an FA Cup medal, so we need to do something about that," Ferguson recognised after the fourth-round victory against Fulham. Ferdinand will be available to do something about that against Chelsea in 13 days' time now.
Hodgson, meanwhile, has joined the list of knights who have supped from the poison chalice and disintegrated like Walter Donovan in The Last Crusade. He chose poorly.