Former England captain Paul Ince has criticised Roy Hodgson's decision not to call up Rio Ferdinand to his injury-hit Euro 2012 squad.
The England manager cited 'footballing reasons' when he initially decided against picking the Manchester United centre-back, but his subsequent refusal to select him when Gary Cahill was injured against Belgium on Saturday has led to speculation the move was meant to prevent disharmony with John Terry.
The Chelsea defender is set to appear in court in July to face a charge of racially abusing Rio's brother and Queen's Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand.
The duo have not appeared together in an England squad since the alleged incident took place in October, yet Hodgson has refused to explain his decision to ignore Ferdinand in favour of Liverpool's once-capped Martin Kelly.
"We are not stupid, we all know the situation regarding John Terry and Rio Ferdinand," Ince told the Telegraph. "We all knew that it would probably be one or the other who would go to the Euros.
"Roy Hodgson has selected John Terry, we know the reason he has not selected Rio so then to come out and say it is football reasons is trying to pull the wool over our eyes, I think.
"It is the way that it has been dealt with that has caused all this commotion. When you are England manager, you have to make hard decisions but, if they had just been up front from the start, and said 'the reason we have left Rio out is we are concerned about the spirit in the England camp with Rio going and John Terry going', we would not be having this disruption now."
Ince, who became the first black player to captain the England team in 1995, insists there are plenty of examples of team-mates who disliked each other playing together harmoniously.
"I am sure that Rio would have been happy to have gone to Euro 2012 with John Terry," added Ince. "There have been many times, even at Manchester United, when there were players who didn't like each other or who did not speak to each other.
"I don't think Teddy Sheringham ever spoke to Andy Cole but, when they got on that pitch, it was not about them, it was about Manchester United.
"Rio and John Terry are not kids, they are old enough to go and play. All they have to do is get on the pitch and perform for their country and I think they would have been experienced enough to do it. Yes, obviously the media would have been looking at it in training and it would have been the talk of the town but, once that first game starts, all the stuff that has gone on outside football is completely forgotten."
Nevertheless, former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson believes the row over Ferdinand's omission from the squad is a "smear campaign" against Hodgson.
"Choosing Kelly over Ferdinand seems to have caught him in the crossfire and, having selected six Liverpool players, Roy is the target of a smear campaign," Eriksson is quoted on BBC Sport.
"Personally, I just find the whole thing to be quite silly. First of all, they're all good footballers. But secondly, Roy has rock-solid knowledge when it comes to the players' current form.
"I do understand Rio's disappointment. He was an incredibly important player for me in three tournaments, but we mustn't forget the injuries he has suffered this season.
"Roy has his reasons; otherwise he would not have rejected Rio - twice. It has been an entirely football-based decision. That's all there is to it
"I know Roy will face it without losing his composure. Remember, this is England. No squad is ever selected without criticism."