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England captain Rio Ferdinand reaches new landmark for black players

23 May 2010 22:30:04

England captain Rio Ferdinand reaches new landmark for black players

As ever with Fabio Capello there was no fuss and little ceremony, but last week he made a short speech to his players confirming Rio Ferdinand as the new England captain. In doing so, Capello created history, appointing a black player to be the figurehead of the team for the first time on a permanent basis. Ferdinand has pulled on the armband before, so have Paul Ince and Sol Campbell, but this is more symbolic. When he strides out at a full Wembley to play Mexico on Monday night, in the final game on home soil before the World Cup, the Manchester United defender will follow in the footsteps of footballing statesmen like Bobby Moore and David Beckham. History man: A new landmark beckonsfor black players when Captain Rioleads England at Wembley against Mexico It has proved quite a journey, from Peckham's Friary Estate to the prestige of the England captaincy, not that Capello is one to pause and indulge such emotion. 'The manager is the way he is and he doesn't change,' said Ferdinand. 'There are no frills, no song and dance about anything. He said it in front of the lads and that was nice. He said I was the new captain and that's it, move on, let's talk about what's going on in training. Enlarge 'I like that. There's no time for small talk in this period. It's about business and we have a lot of work to do before we go away if we're going to be successful.' In February, when Capello decided John Terry would be stripped of the honour after revelations about his private life, the Italian indicated that the vice-captain would be promoted, but that player was Ferdinand, who had struggled all season with back trouble. The centre back was unavailable for the friendly against Egypt in March, when Steven Gerrard led out the team. But now the problem appears to have been cured by a six-week course of injections deep into ligaments in his spine. 'I'm not scared of needles but there was a lot of biting on pillows,' said Ferdinand, recalling the work done by Dr Simon Petrides at the Blackberry clinic in Milton Keynes. 'My spine was too loose, there was no stability, so I had the injections to stiffen them up. I felt a relief almost immediately. 'I never stopped training because they say if you stop for too long you get set in one position. You have to do your training to make sure that your spine heals the right way. They told me to expect a redirection of some nerve pain to different areas. 'One of my main concerns was that it would hinder me in the future but they said there was no fear of that. I've only missed three games since February. I've been training and playing. I never had any doubts I'd be able to go to the World Cup.' Man of experience: Ferdinand is looking forward to his fourth World Cup with England since 1998 this year South Africa will be Ferdinand's fourth World Cup - he was only a teenager when Glenn Hoddle selected him for the squad in France 98 - and he feels the group assembled by Capello is well equipped for a succes s ful tournament. 'I think it's the most experienced squad we've had in terms of the level a lot of the players have played at,' he said. 'A lot have played Champions League football for the last five years, getting to the latter stages most years. If not Champions League then the UEFA Cup games and a lot of England games. 'It's a good atmosphere, a great bunch of lads, and a lot of us have been together quite a few years now, not just the last two years of the qualifying campaign. 'We've been together through a lot of different experiences. It's about getting that winning mentality, that tournament mentality.' Experience levels have been boosted by Jamie Carragher's decision to answer Capello's call and return from three years of international exile. Paul Scholes, one of Ferdinand's United team-mates, turned down a similar call from the England boss. Enlarge 'I would have paid him to come,' said Ferdinand of Scholes. 'That's no detriment to any of the players who are here, but he would have added to the squad. 'I spoke to him about it. Scholesy is a very black-and-white character. He thought about it with his family and came to his decision. 'It's not to be and you don't cry over spilt milk. He's not coming, so we move on and he'll be comfortable with the decision he's made. It won't be burning away at him if we do really well in the tournament.' When it comes to predicting those most likely to threaten England's ambitions in South Africa, Ferdinand, like most, comes up with Spain and Brazil. 'They are European and South American champions and you've got to put them up as the big, big contenders to win,' he said. 'I think one or two of the African countries will do well because they'll be at home, inspired by their own supporters.' England's confidence is more restrained than it was four years ago, when the prospect of a golden generation at their physical peak, playing in a European venue, generated high expectations. This year, the players are content in the role of ambitious outsiders, talking up Spain and Brazil while encouraged by the pedigree of their former AC Milan and Real Madrid manager, despite his lack of experience in a tournament format like the World Cup. 'He's got to be up there among the best managers,' said Ferdinand. 'He's won the title everywhere he's been. He's won the Champions League. In terms of success, he's definitely up there. You buy into his ethos because he's been successful and he's got a very professional way of doing things. Top man: Ferdinand rates Fabio Capello as one the best managers in world football 'We're focused on doing well and doing what the manager asks. It's not about what we're going to do, who we're going to beat and where we're going to get in the tournament. 'It's about if we get the manager's ideas right and put it on to the pitch, then we'll have a chance of doing really well. That's the challenge to us as players.' This England captain will try to resist wild boasts about returning with the trophy or the temptation to picture himself emulating Moore, the skipper in 1966, despite the obvious parallels between two stylish central defenders, both raised at West Ham.   'There's no point thinking about all the scenarios,' said Ferdinand. 'People say, "Oh, what about you being captain, if you win it, you're lifting the trophy?" I've not let myself go past that stage. 'As a kid I'd allow myself to daydream and then we wouldn't get over the final hurdle. I don't want to do that any more. It might be superstition. 'I won't let myself get too emotionally involved out of fear that I might not achieve the goals I set out. But when I'm out there as the England captain, then I'll be able to enjoy it a bit more.'  Fabio Capello: I'll call the seven who'll miss the plane to South AfricaAs Liverpool slide into decline, Gerrard admits: My career is at the crossroadsFabio Capello's mind guru has plan for England World Cup penaltiesLiverpool's Carragher expects boos ahead of England clash with Mexico WORLD CUP 2010: England defender Rio Ferdinand vows - Being captain won't change me in South Africa


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