From the Academy - Tony Carr

Club Ambassador Tony Carr pays tribute to Rio Ferdinand on his retirement
Former Director of the West Ham United Academy and current Club Ambassador Tony Carr pays tribute to one of the best Academy graduates of all time.


As I’m sure you will have noticed, Rio Ferdinand, one of the greatest defenders of the Premier League era and former West Ham United Academy graduate, recently decided to retire. 

To get a mention in Rio’s retirement statement was very humbling. In my opinion, he is without doubt, one of the best Premier League defenders and at his peak, arguably the best. Simply put, he’s one of the best English defenders there’s ever been.

He’s been a great servant to the game, to all the clubs he’s played for and of course his country. 

For me to have been able to play small role in his journey is something I am immensely proud of. But Rio deserves full credit because he never once lost that desire to improve, to keep on learning and test himself week after week.  

In a career spanning 20 years, he made over 700 club appearances as well as winning 81 caps for England. As for trophies, he won a staggering six Premier Leagues title not to mention the FA Cup, the Champions League and three League Cup finals among other accolades. 

Having come through the West Ham United Academy he has long been a superb example to the young talented players we’ve got coming through now. Not only for our young defenders but for everyone dreaming of making their way in football because of the way he approached the game. He is a model example.  

We ask all out young players ‘Are you as good as Rio Ferdinand was when he was your age?’ because that is the level of player we want to produce. If the answer is no, then we need to look at what areas need to be strengthened and make those improvements. 

Looking back, Rio actually started out as an attacker before moving into midfield and finally back into defence. He was initially a bit reluctant to play at the back but he soon got used to the idea and adapted quickly. 

He always had good technique and his ability to read the game was superb. He wasn’t always the tallest player, he was quite gangly and he went through a big growth spurt at 14 or 15 and actually lost a bit of his coordination. I’ve read that he actually had doubts whether he would become a player at all.  

Technically he was always good, even before he came here he had that ability that the best players have. 

You would have to say, looking through West Ham’s history, Rio is up there with the best defenders the club has ever produced. I would include Rio in the same bracket as Bobby Moore. 

There was never a light bulb moment with Rio when I thought ‘Yes, he’s got what it takes make it to the top.’ But you noticed when he was 16 playing for the U18s he was one of the best players, so then you knew he had got something special. 

The then West Ham manager Harry Redknapp did not take much convincing. Once he’d seen him play in training aged seventeen or so, Harry was convinced from the word go that he would be a good player, and so it proved. 

Since the tragic death of his wife Rebecca, I know he received thousands and thousands of messages of support from across the world of football. That alone goes some way to show how big a footballer he was and how well respected he is, not just as player but also as a man. 

On another note, I recently took part in a documentary about the life of the late, great Bobby Moore which will be released next year to coincide with the 50th anniversary of England winning the World Cup and in particular looking at Bobby and his legacy.  

It was great to be able to share those memories of a great, great man. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished piece and I’m sure it’ll be a fitting tribute to him. 

Best wishes,