London (AFP) – Former England star Rio Ferdinand’s confession that he placed club above country when he played at two World Cup finals will be one present England manager Gareth Southgate hopes to avoid in Russia.
The 39-year-old former central defender won 81 caps for England from 1997-2011, most of them while at Manchester United.
He told The Times that having competed against fellow members of England’s so-called “golden generation” such as Chelsea legends John Terry and Frank Lampard and Liverpool icon Steven Gerrard, during a league season he did not feel like opening up to them when they came together for a major finals.
Ferdinand played in two World Cups, both times reaching the quarterfinals. In 2002, England lost 2-1 to eventual champions Brazil and in 2006 on penalties to Portugal after Ferdinand’s club-mate Wayne Rooney was sent off.
“It overshadowed things. It killed that England team, that generation,” said Ferdinand.
“One year we would have been fighting Liverpool to win the league, another year it would be Chelsea.
“So I was never going to walk into the England dressing room and open up to Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, John Terry or Joe Cole at Chelsea, or Steven Gerrard or Jamie Carragher at Liverpool because of the fear they would take something back to their club and use it against us.”
Ferdinand, now a respected pundit who recently tried to take up professional boxing but was refused a licence, said that he regrets putting club before country.
“I didn’t realise that what I was doing was hurting England at the time,” said Ferdinand.
“I was so engrossed, so obsessed with winning with Man United — nothing else mattered.”
Ferdinand says he was most marked by cutting off almost all communication with childhood friend Lampard once they moved away From West Ham.
However, he added “the managers not being good enough” also played a role in England under-achieving at World Cups.
England qualified comfortably for the finals under Gareth Southgate and are hoping to do significantly better than their efforts in their last two major finals appearances.
Roy Hodgson lost his job after England’s embarrassing exit in the last 16 of Euro 2016 to Iceland after he had been give another chance when his team failed to get through the group stage at the 2014 World Cup.