WEMBLEY, England — England coach Roy Hodgson raised concerns on May 16 that fans could be racially abused at Euro 2012, while defending his decision to include John Terry in the squad despite the former captain facing trial on racism charges after the tournament.
The Football Association’s decision to strip Terry of the England captaincy in February following his alleged racial abuse of Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand led to coach Fabio Capello quitting.
Hodgson, who became coach two weeks ago, accepts that the racism issue could hang over Terry especially if England’s players or fans are the subject of abuse at the June 8-July 1 tournament in Poland and Ukraine.
"There’s no doubt that the issue of racism … hooliganism and violence in Ukraine is obviously a concern for us all — not least the supporters who go over there and risk maybe getting beaten up, or if they don’t happen to be white, subjected to a lot of abuse," Hodgson said. "So of course it’s a concern. But I am convinced that John Terry is a person who will be able to handle these matters. He’s not a person who’s not had any criticism in his life.
"He’s had to deal with lots of criticism in lots of different areas. He has to stand up and face the situation which he himself has created, but he has the strength of character to do that. "
Terry denies the racism charges and will face trial is in July. He also lost the captaincy for the first time before the 2010 World Cup following an alleged affair with an England teammate’s former girlfriend.
But Hodgson was cleared to select the Chelsea defender in his 23-man squad by the FA, and said Terry is "not a fearful footballer."
"The moral judgment has been made on him twice in the past," Hodgson said. "I wanted to take a group of players that I think gives us a chance of doing well in the tournament. I decided John Terry should be one of the center halves. I hope he can put the other matters to one side. He’ll get questions — let’s hope he can answer them."
There are lingering questions about the decision not to take Manchester United center back Rio Ferdinand, the brother of Terry’s alleged victim.
Hodgson appears to have ended the 33-year-old Ferdinand’s England career after 81 appearances, and the player later tweeted: "Gutted is an understatement of the highest order."
But Hodgson said not including Ferdinand was due to injuries having kept him out of the England team since June 2011 — not concerns about whether he could play alongside Terry.
"I had to make a footballing decision, on what I’ve seen in recent months," Hodgson said.
The coach became increasingly frustrated that the focus was on Ferdinand and Terry after announcing his first squad, sighing: "Are we going to talk about this until the cows come home?"
Ferdinand had been selected by Capello to be England’s World Cup captain but injuries led to midfielder Steven Gerrard wearing the armband.
Gerrard, who was Hodgson’s captain during his six-month reign at Liverpool, will now also take the role at Euro 2012.
"He will help me build the type of team unity and environment we need to thrive in a tournament," Hodgson said.
England’s Euro 2012 opener is against France on June 11 followed by matches against Sweden and Ukraine.
Striker Wayne Rooney was included despite being suspended for the opening matches against France and Sweden after being sent off in England’s last qualifier in October.
Hodgson will have to choose between Danny Welbeck, Jermain Defoe and Andy Carroll as his strikers against France and Sweden.
"Forwards have been a major problem," Hodgson said.
Hodgson has retained 11 members of the squad Capello took to South Africa two years ago that went out in the last 16 of the World Cup.
The 18-year-old winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has started just six Premier League games for Arsenal, received his first international call-up.
Norwich’s 25-year-old goalkeeper, John Ruddy, has also been included in an England squad for the first time, although Manchester City’s Joe Hart is the first choice between the posts.
Ruddy has been allowed to miss England’s final warm-up match on June 2 against Belgium at Wembley Stadium so he can go ahead with his wedding.
England’s other warm-up match is against Norway in Oslo on May 26.
Goalkeepers: Robert Green (West Ham), Joe Hart (Manchester City), John Ruddy (Norwich).
Defenders: Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Leighton Baines (Everton), Phil Jones (Manchester United), John Terry (Chelsea), Joleon Lescott (Manchester City), Glen Johnson (Liverpool).
Midfielders: Gareth Barry (Manchester City), Stewart Downing (Liverpool), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), James Milner (Manchester City), Scott Parker (Tottenham), Ashley Young (Manchester United), Theo Walcott (Arsenal).
Forwards: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Danny Welbeck (Manchester United), Jermain Defoe (Tottenham), Andy Carroll (Liverpool).