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London – England manager Roy Hodgson says he has no fears about asking Rio Ferdinand to play alongside Ashley Cole for the national team, despite concerns about their relationship.
Ferdinand, 34, has been recalled to the England squad by Hodgson, 21 months after his last international appearance.
The Manchester United centre-back's relationship with Cole has been under scrutiny ever since the Chelsea left-back testified in support of club-mate John Terry, who had been accused of racially abusing Ferdinand's brother, Anton.
Rio Ferdinand was subsequently fined by the Football Association for a Twitter message in which he referred to Cole as a “choc ice” – a slang term used to describe someone who is perceived to be ‘black on the outside, white on the inside'.
Ferdinand insisted he only intended to describe Cole as “fake”, but the feud lingered and the United defender was apparently mocked on Facebook by members of Cole's family after he was struck in the face by a coin thrown from the crowd during a game at Manchester City in December.
The pair have not lined up alongside each other for England since Ferdinand's last appearance against Switzerland in June 2011, but Hodgson expects them to put any differences they may have to one side.
Asked if he was worried that Cole might have concerns about playing with Ferdinand, the England manager replied: “Let's hope he doesn't. I'll cross the bridge when I come to it.”
He added: “These players are fierce rivals sometimes on the field of play and they've got very special agendas for their club teams, so when you bring a national team together, there's always the job of trying to make certain that the group is comfortable and people are comfortable with each other.
“But we're talking about two very experienced professional players here and we're talking about the England football team, so I don't envisage any problems.”
Ferdinand was believed to have been hurt when Hodgson omitted him from England's squad for Euro 2012, but the former Fulham coach said he was optimistic about repairing the relationship.
“I suppose it's a concern, yes,” he said.
“But I can't do more than I'm doing now, giving him the chance to come back, asking him to come back, making it clear that I would like to use him.
“If he has a grievance, and does hold it against me, then there's not much I can do about that.”
Hodgson also defended Ferdinand's conduct in the aftermath of United's controversial Champions League elimination at the hands of Real Madrid.
At the final whistle, Ferdinand sarcastically applauded Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir, who had sent off United winger Nani, but Hodgson said he understood the defender's frustration.
“You can't expect players to be boy scouts,” he said. “They care. They're emotional. It was a massive blow to go out against Real Madrid in that way, after playing so well.
“Yes, in the run of things, everyone should behave, no-one should make a gesture, no-one should say something out of turn, but they do.”
England will expect to beat San Marino on Thursday, but the trip to Group H leaders Montenegro the following week is a different proposition.
Defeat for England could leave them five points behind their rivals, with only the top team in each pool guaranteed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Wayne Rooney was sent off on his last appearance in Montenegro for kicking out at an opposing player; an act that cost him a two-game suspension at Euro 2012.
However, Hodgson said he would not need to speak to the Manchester United striker before the game.
“When you've been sent off in a game, you don't forget your sendings-off, but on the other hand, his disciplinary record – ignoring that occasion, which he paid dearly for – has actually been very good,” Hodgson said.
“Away matches at this level of football require a lot of discipline; not only tactical discipline but also mental discipline. So I'll be speaking to all the players about that, but I won't be singling out Wayne.” – Sapa-AFP