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 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, with Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster also named in the squad.
Ferdinand and Cole clashed after the John Terry race row when Ferdinand endorsed a tweet which referred to Cole as a ‘choc ice’: 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 will be quickly forgotten. At the moment he’s [Ferdinand] in a rich vein of form. For me it was a no-brainer.”
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.”
Hodgson 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? 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.”
England squad (for World Cup qualifiers against San Marino on 22 March and Montenegro on 26 March):
Foster (West Brom), Hart (Manchester City), Forster (Celtic); Baines (Everton), Cahill (Chelsea), Cole (Chelsea), Dawson (Tottenham), Ferdinand (Manchester United), Johnson (Liverpool), Smalling (Manchester United), Walker (Tottenham); Carrick (Manchester United), Cleverley (Manchester United), Gerrard (Liverpool), Lampard (Chelsea), Lennon (Tottenham), Milner (Manchester City), Osman (Everton), Parker (Tottenham), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Walcott (Arsenal), Young (Manchester United); Defoe (Tottenham), Rooney (Manchester United), Sturridge (Liverpool), Welbeck (Manchester United).