Rio Ferdinand isn't going to the European Championships and, apparently, this is a huge news story. Manchester United's 18th choice centre-back, who now resides somewhere behind Johnny Evans, Lauren Blanc, and one of Gary Neville's old socks in the pecking order, is for some reason the focus of a moral outrage over his non-inclusion from a list of England's best available 23 players.
Various accusations have been levelled at the head of Roy Hodgson - a man who doesn't exactly possess bum-wiping-robot levels of popularity in the press - that he's made a huge error in selecting the young and promising Martin Kelly, over @RioFerdy5. Why, in a tournament where nobody expects anything, should a new manager give a 22 year old a chance, when there's still a 33 year old out there who needs some banter for his Tweets with Piers Morgan?
Well, Rio, there are plenty reasons, most of them footballing...
First of all, this is supposed to be a new era. In an age that should finally see even the most hardened Sun reader accept that there never was a “Golden Generation”, the reluctance to make room for the next stag-do of English talent to glug the tasteless alcopop of mediocrity has been worrying to say the least.
Ferdinand was undoubtedly a good player, especially at club level. But the troubling mindset of the English fan base en masse still doesn't realise that club level form, club level tactics, club level partnerships and club level success, counts for nothing at international level. Ferdinand used to preside over a defence solid enough to win the Champions League, but that doesn't mean he'll automatically do well alongside different players playing a different way. If you think it does, ask yourself why it so very obviously doesn't.
But this Rio we'e talking about - he's got experience though, right? There's no substitute for that, right? Well, OK, despite not playing at France 98 (dropped by Glenn Hoddle for suspected drink driving), Euro 2000 (not selected), Euro 2004 (suspended for missing a drugs test), Euro 2008 (failed to qualify), and most recently South Africa 2010 (crocked) he does offer the vast mental toughness that comes from being the mainstay centre-back in England's disastrous 2006 World Cup misadventure, as well as doing whatever Sol Campbell told him to do in 2002.
If competing in two previous tournaments means you should be in the England squad then Nick Barmby and Darius Vassell must be furious by now, and presumably all the lesser-known Mortal Kombat characters will be scouring their family trees in case they qualify through a grandmother in Slough.
Then there's the fitness issues. Manchester United fans who are already in the midst of Googling my address and taking their perishables out of the fridge would do well to note that it was Sir Alex, your spiritual king, who initially put the sentiment out there that Hashtag Justice For Rio wouldn't be up to tournament pace. "You play something like a game every four days. Rio Ferdinand couldn't do that."
An unreliable emergency back-up. Rio Ferdinand would be a fire extinguisher filled with towels, a lifeboat made of cress, a parachute that, when pulled, deployed an 8ft bear wearing one of those little hats with the propellor blades on. He'd be the equivalent of Ledley King at the last World Cup, and I don't need to remind you how that panned out.
Then of course, there's John Terry.
The situation between the Chelsea captain, and the Ferdinand family is one that's so delicate and complicated that, simply by explaining it, I might make it worse. Despite noises from both camps about having the nation's interests at heart, there's no way the two of them could have played together and this was obviously a consideration, but the notion that Rio has effectively been left out because of his race is beyond daft, and apparently beyond Sol Campbell's capacity for understanding. Fact is, in the 21st century a player's race doesn't even come into the equation for any of us clear-minded Englishmen, and it won't have had even the tiniest of impacts on Roy Hodgson's selections. Nearly a third of the squad aren't exactly what you'd call “Aryan”, and even 'Leighton Baines' sounds like a Jamaican name.
Despite the bluster and furore that appear all over the papers and interwebs over this, the reasons Rio Ferdinand won't be going to the 2012 European Championships are all “footballing” in nature. The main one being he's not that good at it anymore. Now get over it.