United defender Ferdinand back in England squad

ROB HARRIS AP Sports Writer Published:

LONDON (AP) -- Rio Ferdinand was recalled to the England squad on Thursday after two years blighted by injuries and the fallout from a racism case that appeared to threaten his international future.

The 34-year-old defender last played for his country in June 2011 but is set to add to his 81 caps by playing in World Cup qualifiers this month against San Marino and Montenegro.

A place in Roy Hodgson's squad opened up because Phil Jagielka was injured, Joleon Lescott was dropped and, more significantly, as recognition for Ferdinand's performances to help Manchester United go 12 points clear in the Premier League title race.

"At the moment he's in a rich vein of form," Hodgson said. "For me it was a no-brainer. We need a good center half, he is a good center half and he's playing well so I've selected him.

"It's not more complicated than that. There are no sinister reasons behind the selection or his lack of selection in the past."

But Ferdinand was annoyed last year with the FA after believing he had been snubbed for a place in the European Championship squad amid the fallout from a case in which his brother was racially abused by England defender John Terry.

Hodgson insisted Ferdinand didn't go to Poland and Ukraine for "football reasons" and not due to any potential conflict with Terry, who went to the tournament despite being stripped of the England captaincy because of the racism case.

Despite Terry announcing his international retirement in September before serving a four-match racism ban, Hodgson continued to indicate that Ferdinand wasn't in his plans -- most memorably to fans on the London Underground.

Just a month ago, in a tetchy exchange with reporters, Hodgson said: "I don't want to talk about him."

Now, though, Ferdinand could be heading to the World Cup in Brazil next year.

"He's in the squad in order to play rather than to make up the numbers," Hodgson said.

"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."

Hodgson hopes Ferdinand will have no issues playing alongside Ashley Cole, as he was unhappy about the Chelsea defender giving evidence in the court case when Terry was cleared of a criminal racial offense.

Ferdinand was fined 45,000 pounds (then $71,000) by the FA after being found guilty of a racially offensive tweet for endorsing a tweet describing Cole as a "choc ice," a slang term perceived as meaning black on the outside and white on the inside.

"I don't envisage any problems," Hodgson said. "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 along the way will be quickly forgotten."

There is another returning defender: Michael Dawson, whose last England appearance came in March 2011 against Wales.

Dawson's Tottenham teammate, Scott Parker, is back in contention for the first time since the Euro 2012 quarterfinal loss to Italy partially due to injuries.

Goalkeeper Ben Foster is also back after reversing his 2011 decision to take an indefinite break from international football due to injury issues.

Foster, who worked with Hodgson at West Bromwich Albion, will provide competition for Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart.

England is two points behind Montenegro in their World Cup qualifying group with six matches to go.

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England:

Goalkeepers: Ben Foster (West Bromwich Albion), Joe Hart (Manchester City), Fraser Forster (Celtic).

Defenders: Leighton Baines (Everton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Michael Dawson (Tottenham), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), Kyle Walker (Tottenham).

Midfielders: Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Tom Cleverley (Manchester United), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Aaron Lennon (Tottenham), James Milner (Manchester City), Leon Osman (Everton), Scott Parker (Tottenham), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Ashley Young (Manchester United).

Strikers: Jermain Defoe (Tottenham), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Danny Welbeck (Manchester United).