"Lord, I don't ask that I should win, but please, please don't let me finish behind Akabusi."
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My autobiography, Rio Ferdinand, Blink, 2014. ISBN 978-1-905825-91-2What an excellent book. Well above average for sports autobiographies. Instead of the tedious, “we beat Arsenal, drew at Sunderland and then travel to Tottenham…”, Rio Ferdinand addresses issues,, never afraid to express an opinion. Setting up his own Foundation reveals a man who has not forgotten his humble origins and who wants to put something back.
Here are a few examples:
Racism - where he writes well of his experience of dealing with racism throughout his life, explains his issues with “Kick It Out” and “Show Racism The Red Card” campaigns. His account of the incident with John Terry and his brother Anton is excellent - with Rio suggesting how the issue could have been settled fairly easily. And his view that “The FA was confused and indecisive”.
Twitter - how he uses it to interact with fans in a way which was impossible for the days before social media.
England - his frustration with England’s underachieving is strongly expressed. “We’ve had eight managers since Glenn Hoddle and there’s still an air of being unfulfilled. The sad fact is that we’re even further away now from achieving anything than when I first went to a World Cup 16 years ago.” And “ something is fundamentally wrong in our national game. If it isn’t fixed. We’ll be also-rans forever… We’re producing good players. But what’s the point if no one knows how they can be fitted into the national team in a coherent way?”
He is critical of players who seem more concerned with the money than with their own performance. From watching Ray Wilkins playing - and warming up – for QPR, to playing under Glenn Hoddle and his various club managers, the theme of learning and becoming a better player seems always to be in his mind.
The chapter, “Back Story” gives a real insight into the player’s perception of injury.
His analysis of why David Moyes failed at Manchester United will be of great interest to MU fans. To sum up the chapter in two sentences. “You can see the difference between the confusing Moyes approach and the absolute clarity Louis van Gaal brought…Moyes set us up not to lose whereas we’d been accustomed to playing to win every game”.
His evaluation of the various England managers is also fascinating: “By far the best was Glenn Hoddle.” He also tells the story of how under the Capello regime the England players were getting McDonalds and Nandos delivered through the back door!
There are insights into the players he really admires:
“Paul Scholes was quite simply the best player who played for Man United.”
“James Rodriguez is going to be the best player in the world within two or three years.”
On Wayne Rooney: “I felt he needed that little bit of devilment in his game. I said to him: I’d rather see you get sent off once or twice and play the way I know you can play.’”
Lionel Messi: “What was the best way to deal with Messi? He played from deep but if I went chasing him, I’d leave a hole for their midfielders and wingers to exploit. Should I stay or should I go? I never knew. Gaps opened and Messi exploited the space between our lines”.
And “Watching Italy’s Andrea Pirlo taking England apart with a passing master class in the quarter final , the thought occurred to me that if he’d been English, Hodgson and other England bosses might never even have picked him”.
An excellent book almost in the “must read” category.