Thursday, November 13, 2008

Rio spills beans on his past and United...

It's not often that the fans get a chance to get near to their idols, but that was the case in central Manchester this week when Rio Ferdinand showed up at the Nike Store, for an event billed as Be Inner Circle. Having been invited I went along to see what all the fuss was about, as things turned Rio had quite a lot to say in what turned out to be a limited out of time.

Most notably, the United star said that he believes that English clubs should not be bringing in overseas youngsters in preference to our own boys. It's a point that many fans will agree with, but at the same time, who among the Red Army would want to be without Rafael da Silva and Rodrigo Possebon? Not me, I might add.

Rio is a firm believer in developing home-grown talent having risen through the ranks as a youngster along many with other talented stars at his first club West Ham United. The England defender says that to this day he's in regular contact with Tony Carr, the Hammers' Director of Youth Development.

On the subject of the current season, although it is of little comfort, Rio gave the fans a degree of reassurance when imparting that the players are gutted about losing at Arsenal last weekend, added to which he says he doesn't want to see City winning anything. Was this a case of saying the right thing? Undoubtedly so, but he did seem to be genuinely upset about the Arsenal defeat.

Of other interest to United fans will be the not totally surprising revelation that prior to joining the club he admitted that he'd vowed NEVER to play for Manchester United. Footballers' have to try to say the right thing to the right audience, it's partly why the players have media training and it's fair to say that Rio knows how to cover his ass, ergo, no Leeds player would ever admit to wanting to sign for Manchester United...

Having become a United player, Rio says that you have buy into everything about the club, including learning about United's history "otherwise, you're out". The United defender also says that when players first arrive they can be intimidated about the club and its former stars like Law, Best and Charlton. It's not until you've won trophies that you feel as though you arrived properly and you're on your way to making your mark in the club's illustrious history.

It came as no surprise to hear that Fergie rules the club with an iron grip, though Rio didn't offer any new anecdotal evidence.

It's fair to say that Rio was not universally accepted by certain elements of United's support, especially when he first became a Red, but I think he's now managed to win most fans over and he says that United's away support is second to non.

On a personal note, I have to say that I think Rio is one of the better performers in front of the mic and importantly he's a superb central defender, in fact I'd go as far as stating that he's one of the world's best in his position, which is why I believe that it's about time that Fergie made Rio United's full time skipper.

I would like to have asked Rio a few searching questions, but alas that was not possible on this occasion due to time constraints.

The event with Rio in Manchester was part of Nike's ongoing commitment towards helping young players, which is a very hot topic right now. Only this week Trevor Brooking and PFA chief Gordon Taylor have both spoken out about the lack of improvement in our youngsters and the problem of so many young players being discarded by England's top clubs.

Talk is cheap, but marketing and advertising are not and it remains to be seen if Nike has a genuine commitment towards helping young players, only time and results will tell. It would be nice to believe that Nike's initiatives are more than just cheap publicity stunts.

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