What The Papers Say

IN our new section, we take a look at all things West Ham United from the national and local newspapers. First up is an exclusive interview by the Daily Mail charting the rise of England Under-21 defender Anton Ferdinand.

ANTON FERDINAND - Taken from the Daily Mail
by Lee Clayton

"HE looks a bright prospect, very similar to his brother… certainly in his features. He has the same build and looks to have a promising future…"

NOT just any old compliment, but Alan Shearer's opinion of Anton Ferdinand after spending an unsuccessful afternoon trying to overcome the Premiership's latest product from the famous footballing family.

After cousin Les and brother Rio, Anton, 20, has arrived.

Shearer is partly right; he looks like Rio, moves like Rio, even sounds like Rio, but they are different. If Rio was all grace and glide at this age, Anton is bulkier, stronger, more able to handle the rough and tumble.

Like the one with Shearer.

Anton puts that down to extra sessions with West Ham's sports scientist Tony Strudwick, one of the additions to Alan Pardew's staff, and the care and advice of his brother.

Ferdinand Jnr says softly: "It helps to have one of the best defenders in the world at the end of the telephone. If I am playing in a live TV game, Rio will text me with compliments and criticism so that, when I turn on my mobile, the messages bounce through.

"I also send him my tapes and he'll spend time looking at them, offering advice. We talk all the time, we are very close. There are positives and negatives about having a brother in the game and one that plays in the same position - that is one of the positives."

And the negatives? "Always being compared."

Ferdinand Jnr has been at West Ham United since he was eight.

He was even pictured on the pitch with mum, Jan, when Rio signed professional forms. He was always destined to follow in his £30million brother's footsteps.

Anton said: "We would play together at the Leyton Square adventure playground in Peckham. We'd stay there until our mum shouted us up. Next to our block of flats on the Ferrari Estate was the back grass. It was our Wembley."

Wembley is where the two might end up. "It is a dream, a hope, an ambition of mine and within our family that I could one day play together with Rio for England. Why shouldn't I believe that, even if it is one for the future? All I can do is to keep playing, working hard and playing well for West Ham.

"I have loved playing for the Under-21s, working with a great group of boys and Peter Taylor. But I must aim as high as I can, continue to develop and work at my game. If the England manager thinks I am ready, I will get my chance."

The Nevilles have done it, so have the Charltons, and England'slatest brothers in arms might not be too far away from another national double act, although John Terry, Jamie Carragher, Ledley King and Sol Campbell form a queue of central defenders who might seek to delay this family affair.

It is impossible to avoid talking to Anton about his brother. He takes it all in his stride and with good grace.

"Look, I know what's what, but people will make their judgments and comparisons.

"I'll always be Rio's brother, but I am also Anton Ferdinand.

"It was a sad day when he left West Ham for Leeds, naturally I felt a sense of loss, but in some respects that was the best thing that could have happened to me.

"At least at West Ham, I could grow into a player in my own right.

"Some good players have left this Club since I came here as a schoolboy 12 years ago," says Anton, who signed a three-year contract at the start of the season.

"I am happy here. The manager has been excellent with me, I've signed my contract and I can fulfil my ambitions here. We have a young hungry squad and, if we keep growing and making progress, the future is very exciting.

"This club also has a tradition of finding players and giving them a chance that's why young lads come here."

And what about the dangers that may lie ahead, the trappings of success?

"I've seen what has happened with Rio and the level of criticism he has had to take, I can learn from that. I'm pretty laid back too.

"Whatever comes my way, I will deal with and hope to make the right decisions."

Ferdinand's baptism wasn't easy. While Rio was viewed as the golden child and fasttracked into the team as the new Bobby Moore, Anton had an uncomfortable, sometimes clumsy, opening spell at right back. But his progress since suggests that the Ferrari Estate has produced another top of the range model.

Just ask Alan Shearer.