What The Papers Say

TAKEN from The Times the day before Hammers met Manchester United at Upton Park, this piece offers a revealing insight into the relationship between Anton and his brother Rio, and an idea of how the younger Ferdinand was driven to emulate his older brother.

Taken from The Times on Saturday 26th November
By Gary Jacob

WHEN the young Ferdinands had a kickabout in their house, Rio would make Anton play in goal and then blast the ball at his younger brother. Janice, their mother, would sometimes yell because they would break some ornaments. "We were kids, weren't we?" Anton said.

It has been nearly 15 years since Anton, the West Ham United defender, played out his dreams of becoming a professional alongside his older brother in their living-room, and tomorrow, they face each other for the first time when Manchester United visit Upton Park. "He used to beat me when we played in the house," Anton said. "It won't be any sweeter than for me to get one back. Before the game, we might say: 'Good luck'. After, we will talk and swap shirts. It's a bit of history, memorabilia."
Anton, who at 20 is seven years younger than Rio, is warm, amusing and engaging. On the pitch, the defenders share the same elegance, composure and superb reading of the game; off it, they are fearless and determined, qualities nurtured by a testing childhood on the Friary estate in Peckham, southeast London. "Growing up in Peckham wasn't easy, but maybe it brought leadership qualities," he said. "They were probably the best days of my life."

The Ferdinand brothers trod the same path, attending Blackheath Bluecoats school, playing for Bloomfield Athletics and Blackheath district junior teams, before signing for West Ham. They remain close. Anton gave Rio advice when his dip in form was scrutinised by the media earlier this season. "It's not nice to read things in the papers, but we are a tight family and that doesn't get to us," Anton said. "Rio's back playing well. It was unfair because everyone's human and will go through a bad patch.

"I heard a saying: 'When you are at the top and create high standards for yourself then the more consequences you have to face.' Anyone who knows Rio knows that the more criticism he gets, the better he becomes. He'll come out laughing."

As a child, Rio was consumed by gymnastics, athletics, ballet and drama while Anton had a passion for horses and singing. Four years ago, Anton nearly gave up football for a career in music because growth spurts were causing niggly injuries "Rio had the same thing - and that helped me," he said. "My Dad said: 'You can do singing after football, not the other way.'"

Around the time that Rio broke the transfer record in this country, Anton made his first appearance for West Ham, in a friendly against Leyton Orient. His readiness to accept responsibility has impressed, helped by Paul Smith, who runs the club's ProZone system, which tracks a player's movement on the pitch. "My concentration needs to be worked on," Anton said.

Anton has not forgotten the first time he was named in the West Ham squad for a league game, three years ago at Old Trafford. "I was looking at my programme and Sebastién Schemmel said: 'You're on the bench'. I just said: 'Shut up, you're lying to me'. He said: 'If we are winning, 2-0, 3-0 and there's ten minutes to go, then I'm going to say I'm injured so you can come on.'

"I went into the changing-room and saw my name up on the board as a sub. It was the best feeling I'd ever had. I went outside with a big smile on my face and Rio was there. He was injured. 'I'm on the bench bruv, I'm on the bench!'. I would have loved to have come on."

Anton may have moved from Peckham but he has never deserted it. He has promoted a tourist map of the area and visits his former school, where teachers regard him as a role model. "I like [the pupils] to know that I come from the same background and if I can do it, then so can they," he said.

He credits his upbringing to the sacrifices his parents made. His father Julian, a tailor, would make clothes for the family, and Janice worked for and then owned a nursery. Curfews were adhered to. "If my schoolwork wasn't done then I wasn't allowed to play football. I'm not Rio. It wasn't a guarantee that I was going to make it," he said. Their father became their most stern critic. "There's been a few games this season in which he said we could have done better," he said. "It would be his dream if we played together for England.' "

Julian was there to watch Anton score his first Premiership goal against Tottenham Hotspur last Sunday. "He was buzzing and so was I with fans singing my name," Anton said.