Ferdinand's Family Ties

THE Ferdinand household will be a proud place to be come Sunday 27th November.

It's the date Manchester United visit Upton Park to take on the Hammers, and the day Anton Ferdinand could come face to face with his older brother, England star Rio for the first time in his career.

Anton certainly can't wait for the live Sky TV showdown, which will be the first time the Red Devils have visited Upton Park since November 2002, when the teams drew 1-1.

"It was the first fixture I looked out for," admitted the 20-year-old Academy graduate. "It's definitely going to be one for the Ferdinand family to look forward to. My mum and dad, cousins, aunts and uncles - everyone can't wait.

"But that game is a long way away at the moment and right now we are just focusing on getting ourselves ready for the new season and the first game at home to Blackburn Rovers.

"We just want to take it one game at a time and make sure we give our very best from the first whistle of the new season."

Anton has seen three new defenders arrive at Upton Park over the past week, but the England Under-21 international insists that is even more incentive for him to hold onto his place in the team as the new campaign approaches.

"I haven't got any problem with the new players coming in," he said. "We need a strong squad to take on the Premiership and it's good for the Club to have competition all over the pitch.

"The boys are all focused on fighting for their places, because that's what you need to do when you are playing in the Premier League.

"I know Konche (Paul Konchesky) well, but I didn't really know James Collins or Danny Gabbidon before the arrived.

"They seem like good lads though and I think they'll settle in well. Rio told me quite a bit about Roy before he joined and he seems like a nice guy as well. Like all the new lads, I think he'll fit in really well at the Club."

Anton has hardly had much time to himself since that memorable Play-off Final victory in Cardiff. Since then he has been away on England duty with Nigel Reo-Coker, but did manage to fit in some relaxation time.

"I went to Dubai and America," he explained, "and going away with England was also a really great experience for me.

"It hasn't been a long close season, but that's alright with me because after the Final all I wanted to do was keep going.

"Because of the short break it's pretty much straight back into playing games once we head out to Sweden on Wednesday.

"But I prefer to play matches than do all that running! The boys haven't lost too much fitness because of the short time off, and if it was a longer holiday I'm sure we'd be over to Hainault slogging it out over those hills!"

Like most of the players involved in that fantastic victory over Preston back in May, Anton is still on a high from the celebrations, and the defender is backing that positive mood to carry Alan Pardew's squad into the new season.

"I'm buzzing," he admitted, "and I think that goes for all of the squad ahead of the new season.

"The lads have responded really well to being back in training. The mood was upbeat right from the first day and that's certainly going to help us going into the new season.

"All of the new boys were welcomed into the squad straight away and there's a great spirit around the team at the moment.

"There's lots of hard work ahead, but I think we've got a good chance in the coming season. This is a strong squad of players here that is only going to get stronger between now and the start of the season.

"We have belief throughout the squad, and you definitely need that because otherwise you will definitely struggle.

"I'm really just looking forward to the new season, probably more than any other since I started playing football."