FA chief shrugs off Rio furore

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FOOTBALL Association chairman David Bernstein has refused to discuss the absence of Rio Ferdinand, claiming England did not want to get sidetracked by “historical extraneous issues”.

Ferdinand’s absence from the 23-man squad that flew into Krakow last night has been a major talking point since manager Roy Hodgson chose to replace injured Dronfield-born and defender Gary Cahill with Liverpool youngster Martin Kelly on Monday.

The move prompted a vicious reaction from the Ferdinand camp, who believe, like many others, that the 33-year-old’s omission had nothing to do with “football reasons” as Hodgson previously stated, and everything to do with worries about how the defender would interact with John Terry.

On a walk around Krakow’s attractive main square a couple of hours after arrival, Bernstein rebuffed repeated questions and seemed to sweep Ferdinand’s 81-cap career away.

“We’re here to talk about the tournament, about the 23 players who are here and I’m not prepared to discuss - at all - any players who are not here,” he said.

“It might be an issue - but it’s an issue I’m happy to talk about when the tournament is over maybe.

“We are here to talk about the tournament and about the future and that’s it.

“We all want to maximise our chances of doing well and we want to focus on what’s ahead of us - not what is behind us.

“We’d hope you would join us in that, looking forward to do the very best we can with positive thoughts and not dwelling on all these sort of what are now frankly historical, extraneous issues.”

England midfielder Scott Parker, meanwhile, has admitted it “means everything” to get the chance to appear at Euro 2012.

“I can’t remember my last tournament,” he said.

“It is probably the European Under-21 Championships but they are so long ago I can’t even remember how we did.

“It is a massive gap that’s for sure, so this tournament will be a very fulfilling experience in my career.

“It means everything really. It is all I ever wanted as a player and something I am really looking forward to.”

England face France in their opening game in Group D in Donetsk on Monday. France have risen to 14th in the latest FIFA rankings and are unbeaten in 21 matches.

“It will be a tough game, as it always is against France,” said Parker. “France are a very good team full of talented individuals. We are going to have to be disciplined and strong defensively to nullify that. It will be tight but we have our own threats going forward.”