LONDON (AP) – Rio Ferdinand was recalled to the England squad after almost two years on Thursday, with the defender called up for the first time by coach Roy Hodgson.
The 34-year-old Manchester United player last played for his country in June 2011 but is in line to start the World Cup qualifiers later this month against San Marino and Montenegro, which is two points ahead of England in the group.
''I am picking him on form and merit - everything is `football reasons,''' Hodgson said.
Ferdinand was annoyed last year with the FA after believing he had been snubbed for a place in the European Championship squad amid the fallout from a case in which his brother was racially abused by England defender John Terry.
Hodgson gave a strong hint that Ferdinand could have a prominent role to play in the double-header coming up, and possibly beyond.
"A player of Rio's caliber and also of Rio's age, you don't bring them into a squad as back-ups, you bring them into the squad or the team because you want them to make the team better, to give you a better chance of winning," said the England manager.
Hodgson added: "So it wouldn't take too much guesswork to work out that he's in the squad in order to play rather than to make up the numbers.
"Like all players you select, you select them because you think they're capable of doing the job you want them to do. But who knows what the future holds? 2014 is still a long way off and if Rio is still going the way he is at the moment, in 2014 he is going to be a major candidate for the squad.
"He has been playing well and his team have been playing extremely well. I think this is the moment to select him because he certainly deserves it on current form."
Hodgson insisted Ferdinand didn't go to Poland and Ukraine for ''football reasons'' and not due to any potential conflict with Terry, who went to the tournament despite being stripped of the England captaincy because of the racism case.
Despite Terry announcing his international retirement in September, Hodgson continued to indicate that Ferdinand wasn't in his plans.
Goalkeepers: Ben Foster (West Bromwich Albion), Joe Hart (Manchester City), Fraser Forster (Celtic).
Defenders: Leighton Baines (Everton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Michael Dawson (Tottenham), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), Kyle Walker (Tottenham).
Midfielders : Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Tom Cleverley (Manchester United), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Aaron Lennon (Tottenham), James Milner (Manchester City), Leon Osman (Everton), Scott Parker (Tottenham), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Ashley Young (Manchester United).
Strikers: Jermain Defoe (Tottenham), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Danny Welbeck (Manchester United).