In naming his 23-man squad for the European Championships, Roy Hodgson invited the kind of scrutiny that must feel as though he is the subject of a national bout of interrogation. The real evaluation of Hodgson will begin when the players he has selected compete in the tournament in Ukraine and Poland next month, but the start of his reign is being assessed by the individuals he has omitted.
Leaving Rio Ferdinand out of the squad at least spared Hodgson and the players from constant queries about the harmony among the players, since the Manchester United defender's relationship with John Terry is said to be strained after the Chelsea captain was accused of racially abusing Ferdinand's brother, Anton, of Queen's Park Rangers.
Terry is a divisive figure – Ferdinand is not alone among the senior England players to be distant with him – but Hodgson was calculating in his decision-making.
In his prime, Ferdinand was among the leading centre-backs of his generation, but in adapting his game to a long-lasting and painful back complaint, he has lost something of his physical edge even if he continues to be a graceful centre-back. Terry remains, for all his personality flaws, a ruggedly powerful and aggressive competitor who can still dominate opponents.
Hodgson was respectful to Ferdinand, and discounted the player's increasingly fragile body as a reason for his decision. Yet with Wayne Rooney suspended for the opening two games, and Ferdinand having carefully managed his training and appearances this season – as well as playing in some games while injured – Hodgson will have calculated that his squad did not need the threat of another leading figure being unavailable.
"I talked with Sir Alex [Ferguson] 10 days ago," Hodgson said. "Rio has done exceptionally well this year. He's got himself on the field of play when many a player wouldn't have done so. I'm also wary of that because I know there have been times in the season when Rio has played three matches in a week. I would be lying if that was the major reason for not selecting him. It was purely on football reasons."
Selecting Ferdinand and Terry, who would have been considered the first-choice pairing by reputation if not form or favour, would have presented the kind of media sideshow that exasperates managers. For all that England fans will endlessly gripe about players who should have been selected and others who do not merit inclusion, the reality is that Hodgson is selecting from a shallow pool.
Only committed admirers would make a compelling case for Micah Richards' inclusion, while choosing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ahead of Aaron Lennon is a decision that can be framed as a piece of forward-planning for future tournaments. Hodgson does not always convince, though, and his explanation of being impressed by the Arsenal teenager's display against "[Andrea] Pirlo and [Massimo] Ambrosini at the centre of midfield" when AC Milan played at the Emirates was clumsy, since the former is a Juventus player and the latter did not play that night.
Any manager can be undone by a slip of the mind, but the image of Hodgson as an urbane, intellectual figure was an antidote to the constant cheerleading for Harry Redknapp. Hodgson will always been compared to the Tottenham manager, who has a natural wit and charm but also widespread esteem, that Hodgson cannot muster.
Would Redknapp have selected Michael Carrick or Peter Crouch instead of Gareth Barry or Andy Carroll? If he had, the only difference would have been a greater willingness among the England fans to not gripe.
Hodgson, though, has picked a squad of functional players for what will be a functional team. Is Crouch a better option than the raw but imposing Andy Carroll? It is the Liverpool striker, for all his gaucheness, who will trouble opposition defenders more readily.
Selecting Terry can be seen as a risk, since he faces a court appearance in July regarding the Anton Ferdinand affair. Yet Hodgson has selected the best and most experienced centre-back at his disposal, and trusted that his team-mates respond positively.
"We must emphasise he [Terry] is innocent until proven guilty," Hodgson said. "My decision was based purely on football matters, I was given a free hand as to the squad I picked. I believe Terry, especially in the latter part of the season, has played very well. He assured me I need have no fears or worries over any of my issues."
Hodgson was justifying his decisions, but that is part of his role now: to be accountable for choices that will never be wholly accepted.