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European Qualifiers Group E

Rambling Rio tweets himself into a corner

Rio Ferdinand's ham-fisted handling of his withdrawal from the England squad has made him look foolish, says TEAMtalk guest blogger Tom Reed.

Last Updated: 25/03/13 at 14:26 Post Comment

Rio Ferdinand: Another PR failure

Rio Ferdinand: Another PR failure

His name is Rio and he watches from the stands. Except that he doesn't.

As England took to the field for Friday night's World Cup qualifier in San Marino, the Manchester United number five was in Qatar covering the game for Al Jazeera TV.

And while the 34-year-old felt the need to rest his aching bones after a season with the Red Devils, he also came off second best in a battle of wits with Roy Hodgson.

For the whole saga boiled down to a clash between the old-school experience of Hodgson and the brand-savvy street-smarts of Ferdinand. A cold war between a well-travelled, multi-lingual coach whose dream dinner guest is John Updike, and a Peckham boy whose interests include watching 'Prisoner's Wives' and "merking" team-mates in World Cup Wind-Ups.

It would, of course, be mean-spirited to dismiss the varied achievements of Ferdinand both on and off the pitch, which include domestic and European titles and various charitable projects as well as TV, film and media work.

Nor would it be fair to mention Hodgson without discussing his unsuccessful stint at Liverpool and the insensitive 'Tube fiasco' where the England boss told bystanders that Ferdinand's England career was "over".

But there is no doubt that Rio's handling of his recent call-up has damaged his '#5' brand and suggested that the aspirational player may not be as clever as he thinks he is.

Indeed, England fans would have been more understanding of the centre-back if he had offered up a candid explanation of the need to manage his chronic back problem. After all, it is widely accepted that older players require more time to recover from niggles.

However, Ferdinand's major error was in communicating the issue via Twitter with the message: "I am gutted to pull out of the England squad, but it was the right decision for my intricate pre-planned programme."

The message came across as nothing short of flippant, with the defender seemingly expecting fans to be impressed by the word "intricate".

Things took a turn for the worse when it became apparent that part of this "intricate" programme was to fly 15 hours to Qatar; a journey so restful that on a previous trip, Ferdinand tweeted: "Just landed in Qatar... zero sleep on the plane!!".

When asked why he was in Qatar and not San Marino, Ferdinand answered: "It was there in black and white what I had to do and that's what we done" - suggesting that his punditry skills might not live up to Gary Neville's.

England fans are no mugs and their judgement, sung from the stands in San Marino, was damning.

It is strange that someone who uses social media to advertise the minutiae of daily life should be so reticent about the details of his intricate training programme and then complain about the assumptions of "haters".

Ferdinand has been embroiled in far too many controversies for someone so aware of building a brand. Too many incidents are left open for "fans to make up their own minds". For every winner's medal to celebrate, there is a counter-productive PR fail to rue.

Undoubtedly, Rio will take to Twitter to defend his decision in the same way he tried to laugh off 'choc-ice-gate'. However, in private, Ferdinand must realise his game-plan is shot. By keeping a dignified silence, Hodgson allowed Rio to talk himself into a corner.

Meanwhile, England fans are left to ponder whether the main problem with Ferdinand's lumbar region is a lack of backbone. The more pressing issue may be a dearth of grey matter in comparison to the shrewd England gaffer.

Tom Reed

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