Anton: Injury cost me World Cup chance

He might have spent the summer watching his brother in action at the World Cup finals, but Anton Ferdinand has revealed that he may well have been joining Rio in the England squad ahead of the trip to Germany!

Had it not been for a troublesome groin problem that required surgery at the end of the season, the Hammers defender would have been heading off with Beckham, Gerrard, Lampard and co, and in with a shout of appearing on the world's biggest footballing stage.

When Charlton Athletic defender Luke Young was forced to withdraw from the five-man standby list as Sven-Goran Eriksson's men prepared to head to Portugal for their tournament preparations in May, Tottenham Hotspur centre-half Michael Dawson was called up as his replacement.

However, the Swede had originally contacted Anton, to offer him the chance to join his friend and club-mate Nigel Reo-Coker as an understudy for the 23-man squad. Cruelly, though, the 21-year-old was forced to turn down the opportunity of a lifetime, as he explains…

"It was about a week after the FA Cup final, and I was just sitting at home when my phone rung. It was Sven, asking me if I would like to join up with the squad on standby because Luke Young had been forced to pull out with injury.

"I was shocked at first, and thought it might be a wind-up, but then realised it was definitely Sven. Unfortunately, though, I had to say no, because I'd had a double hernia operation the day before!

"It was a problem that had been troubling me towards the end of the season and after the FA Cup final I was booked in to have it sorted out. Sven didn't know about that and said it was unfortunate, but wished me all the best for the future.

"It was a bit upsetting to think that having the operation cost me the chance of joining up with England, but I took the positives out of it all, and just to be in the thoughts of the manager and close to being picked for the squad was a massive honour. I'm still only 21 and have got my whole career in front of me, so I didn't get too down about it.

"Obviously there is a new manager in charge now, and hopefully I will get my chance at international level in the future. First and foremost, though, I've got to make sure I play well for West Ham, week in, week out, because that is the only way I am going to get in the England squad next season."

Despite his own misfortune, though, Anton still made it on a plane to Germany in order to support big brother Rio, and he admits that the experience of following England as a fan was an unforgettable one.

"It was unbelievable to be out there, and I was happy to see Rio do well," he says. "I thought he was very consistent and England looked solid defensively. They had a couple of slip-ups against Sweden but he wasn't on the pitch at that point!

"I went to three of the England games - the Paraguay and Trinidad group games and the second round match against Ecuador. It was nice to spend a bit of time with the rest of my family and support my brother.

"The atmosphere at the games was fantastic and I was wearing one of Rio's England shirts to cheer him on. I got noticed a few times but it was nice to be out there just as an England fan, and I had a great time.

"He was obviously devastated at the way England were knocked out, but he knows that these things happen in football and you just have to get on with it."

Now the focus returns to club football for both of the Ferdinand brothers and, having reported back for pre-season training at Chadwell Heath at the start of the week, Anton admits he is raring to go again after his six-week break.

"It seems like only yesterday that we were saying our goodbyes for the summer after the cup final," he says. "It's nice to get away at first but in the last couple of weeks I've been looking forward to coming back, and now I'm delighted to be with all the lads again and about to start training.

"We're all really looking forward to the new season, because we still feel that there is a lot more to come from this team. We've got to work twice as hard next season as we did last year, because it's going to be tough for us. We're not a surprise package any longer, and teams will know that they have got to play well to beat us.

"I'm sure we can handle that, though, and, as we showed in the FA Cup final at the end of the season, we know we can mix it with the best."