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By ESPN Staff
May 20, 2006

Ferdinand hungry for glory after 'wake-up call'

Rio Ferdinand has admitted being axed by England coach Sven Goran Eriksson earlier in the season acted as a 'wake-up call'.

Now the Manchester United centre-back is looking to make up for the disappointment of being suspended for the Euro 2004 finals, after failing to attend a drugs test, by helping his country to World Cup glory this summer.

Ferdinand found himself dropped by Eriksson for the home World Cup qualifier against Austria at Old Trafford in October, with Sol Campbell partnering John Terry at the back.

The former West Ham player is often accused of being too laid-back in his approach because of his demeanour, but was 'devastated' to be relegated to the substitute's bench.

As it turned out, an injury during that game to Campbell meant Ferdinand was quickly reinstated and he was back in the starting line-up four days later, for another qualifier on his home ground with Poland.

But it had served as a warning to Ferdinand, whose early-season form for United was a million miles away from the accolades bestowed upon him for his performances in the last World Cup in Japan.

He has responded to the criticism in a positive manner to once again be part of Eriksson's first-choice centre-back pairing ahead of the finals in Germany.

Ferdinand said: 'The manager said `I am not going to play you against Austria' and being told something like that is devastating.

'You don't want to be dropped by anyone, let alone the England manager.

'That definitely hit home. It was at a period of the season when I hadn't played well for a couple of games.

'I knew what I had to do to get back into the team, to play well and get my form on track at United, and I managed to do that.

'Unfortunately, Sol got injured and that was my opportunity to get back into the team almost straight away, but it was a wake-up call.

'If it wasn't a wake-up call, then I shouldn't even be in the England team.

'I got my head down and by the end of the season I was happy with the way I was playing and, fingers crossed, that will carry on into this coming period of games and the World Cup.'

Ferdinand is aware of the competition for places at the heart of the defence, but believes England can only benefit from such intense competition.

He said: 'There are a lot of good centre-halves and that is good. If we had an XI that everyone could pick, that would mean English football is on a downward spiral.

'It is good people are saying `he should play' or `he shouldn't play', because it means there is competition for the spots.'

Ferdinand's eight-month suspension meant he watched the Euro 2004 finals in a bar in Miami with some friends.

He said: 'I don't think you can fully put into words how much you miss a tournament. It's like a big chunk out of your career. I missed eight months of football. I missed the Premiership as well.

'To miss a European Championship is massive. Sometimes I hear people talking about what happened in Euro 2004 and I can't get involved.

'I don't know what they are talking about and that is always a little reminder of what happened. I was in a bar in Miami with my mates watching the games and singing Rooney songs!

'I wanted to be involved. That's gone and if I keep looking back it's not going to be beneficial to anyone.

'But it makes you more hungry. You want to be part of something that goes down in history and if we do well by the end of this tournament there is a good chance our names will be in concrete in history.'

Ferdinand believes his demeanour leads to misguided comments on how much he cares about wanting to be a winner for his country.

He said: 'It is weird. People write in the papers and say on TV `it looks like he doesn't care' but I've not tried to play the way I play. It's natural. It's just the way I am.

'I can't change the way I play and if I could, it would make people think that I actually care and it would be easier for me. But inside you have got to work as hard as the man next to you and go out and produce the goods.

'Even when I was a lot younger some people were saying `he's too easy on the ball' and stuff like that. That was just a learning curve as a kid growing up.

'When I was younger I'd come off the pitch and say `we've won 3-2' and one of the goals would be my fault and I wouldn't talk about that.

'I've had to change and my first instinct now is to keep clean sheet. If we win 3-1 and have conceded a goal, that will ruin my weekend.

'I'll be thinking `could I have done better with that?' even if it wasn't my fault. It's a fine balance you've got to get.'