England denies divide among players

England denies divide among players

Published Jun. 7, 2012 1:00 a.m. ET

Stewart Downing insisted the backlash against Rio Ferdinand's snub had not hurt England's European Championship build-up as France coach Laurent Blanc waded into the controversy.

Ferdinand's brother, Anton, broke his silence on the matter before Blanc became the latest leading figure in the game to suggest the Manchester United defender was not left at home only for "football reasons" ahead of Les Bleus' clash with England on Monday.

Opposite number Roy Hodgson's decision not to select Ferdinand has caused a storm and there have been reports of divisions within the squad over the matter.

But Liverpool winger Downing claimed it was not even a topic of conversation at the team's Krakow base.


"Certainly not," he said. "Whoever the manager picks, we just get on with it.

"I just concentrate on my own game and why I am here. It has obviously been built up but players just get on with it."

Insisting the saga had not had a negative impact on the squad, he added: "The manager has just told us to concentrate on playing in the games and the players who are here."

Hodgson has denied Ferdinand's exclusion had anything to do with the possibility of disharmony between the United center-back and John Terry.

Terry faces a court case on July 9 after being charged with racially abusing Anton Ferdinand during a match between Chelsea and QPR last October. Chelsea captain Terry denies the charge.

Several high-profile former players have contended this was precisely the reason Ferdinand was ignored, and France boss Blanc joined them on Thursday.

Speaking at a press conference, he said: "I know Rio Ferdinand. I think, from afar, that the choice to not take him isn't a sporting choice.

"Rio Ferdinand is a very good player but (his exclusion) has been surprising with all the injuries in that department."

Anton Ferdinand earlier refused to join the condemnation of his brother's omission.

Rio Ferdinand's adviser, Jamie Moralee, this week branded the decision to call up Martin Kelly as a replacement for the injured Gary Cahill on Sunday "disrespectful", and the player was equally unhappy.

However, the United man vowed to support England in the tournament and his brother has backed up those sentiments.

"Things happen in football," he told Daybreak. "It's a game of ups and downs. I am sure he'd like to be there but sadly it didn't happen this time.

"But we move on and, like he said, he's going to follow them from somewhere else and, as a family and as a community, we're going to do that."

The 81-cap Ferdinand was overlooked for a player who made his international debut just two minutes from the end of last Saturday's friendly win in Norway.

Kelly could be forgiven for feeling unwanted following the outcry over his selection.

Downing said of his Liverpool teammate: "Kels is a quiet lad. He just goes about his business. He is going to be a top player. He is a terrific talent. He is still a young boy.

"When he played for Liverpool this season, he did ever so well. The manager has seen his ability. He has settled in quite well."

Goalkeeper Joe Hart was equally effusive about the 22-year-old.

"He's doing great, settling in well," Hart said. "He came on and did well against Norway. We're happy with how he did there.

"He's come in and trained well - there are quite a few Liverpool lads, which has made it easier for him. I'm sure he's going to do well."