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Ferdinand laments England's WAG "circus"

In what will be a breath of fresh air to all disillusioned England fans, Rio Ferdinand has slammed as a ''circus'' the 'wives and girlfriends' culture which has pervaded the national team over recent years, and admitted it scuppered England's 2006 World Cup campaign.

The England vice-captain, who will wear the armband in Wednesday's World Cup qualifier in Belarus due to an injury to John Terry, has credited Fabio Capello with installing a new altogether more professional approach.

Ferdiand revealed that the previous celebrity culture reached its nadir during Sven Goran Eriksson's 2006 World Cup campaign when the England squad stayed at Baden-Baden and were accompanied by their partners, who became tabloid fodder as WAGs.

''We became a bit of a circus, if I'm honest, in terms of the whole WAG situation,'' Ferdinand said. ''It seems like there was a big show around the whole England squad.

''It was like watching a theatre unfolding and football almost became a secondary element to the main event. People were worrying more about what people were wearing and where they were going, rather than the England football team.

''That then transposed itself into the team. This regime is very water-tight. If I'm honest, it feels as if we're going in the right direction. I don't want to speak too soon, but you can see we're at the start of something and, hopefully, there'll be bigger rewards than what we've had in the past.''

After reaching the quarter-finals in Germany, England failed to qualify for Euro 2008 under Steve McClaren and Ferdinand has felt a significant shift in focus since Capello's arrival in January.

The Italian has guided England to a 100% start in Group Six with three wins from three games ahead of Wednesday game at the Dinamo Stadium in Minsk, and Ferdinand has been impressed with the change in ethos under the new England coach.

''It's a very professional regime,'' he said. ''Very result-orientated. Very much like a lot of our clubs. The results come a long way before the performances.''

Capello has important decisions before facing Belarus, with Wayne Bridge in line to replace Ashley Cole at left-back.

Ferdinand deputises as captain for John Terry, who was replaced by Matthew Upson for the Kazakhstan win. Whether Steven Gerrard is retained has also been a recent topic that has divided public opinion.

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