Ferdinand warming to leader's role
Rio Ferdinand has vowed being captain of England will not change him - but admits skippering his country is a "fantastic honour". Ferdinand has arguably profited most from the off-field turmoil that cost John Terry the job he coveted above all others. Fitness permitting, it will be Ferdinand who leads England into battle for their World Cup opener against the United States in Rustenburg on June 12. And, should Fabio Capello's men succeed in reaching Soccer City for the final a month later, it will be Ferdinand who has the chance to emulate West Ham legend Bobby Moore by lifting the World Cup for England. The opportunity is immense, and one that cannot fail to excite even the most laid-back of characters. Yet Ferdinand insists his head will not be turned. And should anyone in England's squad, either the expanded 30-man provisional party - currently minus Gareth Barry - that is preparing for Monday night's friendly with Mexico, or the 23 players Capello will unveil on June 1, want a chat, the 31-year-old will only be too willing to oblige. "Being captain is a fantastic honour and a responsibility that I warm to," he said. "But it is not something that is going to change me. I will conduct myself in exactly the same way. "Even before I was made captain, the younger players knew I was an easy-going guy who they can approach which, in a way, is more important than being captain. "When you have been to tournaments, you are more capable of being the kind of person that a younger player might need to speak to." Ferdinand has the benefit of experience from three previous World Cups, the first despite not managing to get on the pitch at France 98. It provides him with a fairly healthy input into the pitfalls England tend to stumble into. Quite often, these revolve around over-confidence, something that did not look likely as the Three Lions licked their wounds in the wake of that embarrassing failure to reach Euro 2008 that heralded Capello's arrival as Steve McClaren's replacement. However, such was the swagger with which England booked their place in South Africa - the only dropped points came in a defeat to the Ukraine in Dnipro when goalkeeper Robert Green was sent off inside the first 10 minutes - that once again the talk is when, rather than if, the Three Lions surge to the quarter-finals and beyond. Yet Ferdinand does not want such statements to permeate the England dressing room. It is one of the things he has heard too many times before. "There is a confidence. But maybe we have been a bit naive in the past and got ourselves caught up in all the emotion that surrounds our country going to a massive tournament," he said. "People say we are going to win it. But we have respect for the other nations as well." As Ferdinand missed the win over Egypt in March as he was completing his recovery from a long-standing back complaint he insists is no longer a concern, he should be captain in his own right for the first time tomorrow night. The game is one of two England must play before Capello makes the final cut, which, as he knows from experience, can be a shattering blow that ultimately makes you stronger. "I was left out of Euro 2000 by Kevin Keegan and was devastated," he said. "When I look back though it was a blessing in disguise. It made me re-evaluate myself and the way I treated football. "I probably did not give the game the respect it deserved. After that experience I became a better professional, so I should thank Kevin Keegan for that. "You can't let it kill you, or finish you confidence-wise. You have to turn it into a positive." Capello's team selection tomorrow will spare the five members of his squad who appeared in the FA Cup final last weekend another tortuous experience on the Wembley surface that was condemned so harshly by Terry. There did not seem to be too many problems for Blackpool or Cardiff in yesterday's five-goal Championship play-off final thriller, and Ferdinand has no concerns. In fact, the more difficult, the more worthwhile playing on it might prove to be. "It is a pitch. You get good ones and bad," he said. "Wembley has come in for a bit of criticism over the past couple of months about how the pitch has been but the same thing could happen in South Africa. "There could be a dodgy pitch out there we have to contend with so this game could be counted as good preparation if the pitch is not to the standard we expect at Wembley."
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