Paul Parker

Too early to write off Rio

Paul Parker

View photo

.

It was unsurprising to see Rio Ferdinand struggling during
England's defeat to Ukraine,
but calls for his head are premature.

The Manchester United defender was horribly
at fault when he
failed to deal with a long ball
early on in England's penultimate World Cup qualifier, leading to the incident which led to Robert Green's sending off and Andriy Shevchenko's
missed penalty.

It was just the
latest in a number of high-profile errors, coming after a weak back pass that allowed Dirk Kuyt to net in the international friendly against Holland
back in August and his arrogant
attempted chip over Martin Petrov that resulted in Craig Bellamy's dramatic late goal
in the Manchester
derby.

Clearly lay-offs through injury have
not helped his
form, but Rio has
always been prone to drifting off and making errors when
not entirely on form.

He is not a natural-born defender, like a John Terry or a Gary Neville. He started out life as a
midfielder before being turned into a centre-back and sometimes he fails to sniff out danger.

Instead he relies
on his pace to get him out of trouble and, in fairness, more often than not it serves him
well enough.

But when his fitness is not entirely up to standard and is
lacking that yard of pace, he can be caught
out, especially at international level.

Couple that with a poor attitude at the
weekend - he went into the game doubting his
own fitness and questioning his
place in Fabio Capello's squad - and his
performance was hardly surprising.

Indeed, Capello cannot have
been impressed by the player's
negativity before the game. He
almost admitted defeat by making excuses before a ball had
even been kicked.

It all comes at a bad time for Rio,
who knows that
Capello is a ruthless manager. He
does not stand on ceremony and will not pander to a big star's ego or
reputation. He will have no
compunction in axing a player he
feels is not playing well enough.
Just look at Ferdinand's club-mate Michael
Owen for proof.

From here on in, Rio will surely have
to work to keep his place in the team, but I do not think
it is time to hit the panic button just yet.

Rio still has
plenty of time to regain full fitness, get some games under his belt, both
with United and England, and regain his
composure before Capello names his
squad for South Africa.

Fitness is very much
related to form, and once Rio has the
former, the latter will follow.

Of course, Capello is entitled to consider other players, but I can't see the
likes of Gary Cahill, for example,
translating his club form on to the international stage between now and next summer.
Very rarely does that happen to a previously uncapped player.

Far better to back Rio, get him
back to full fitness and playing well, and that
way continuity can be kept which I am sure will serve England better in the long run.

- - -

I was disappointed to hear
that Emile Heskey is considering a
move away from Aston Villa in a bid to secure his
place in the England squad.

It shows a total
lack of fight on the part of a man who,
given his build, looks like he should
be full of it.

Instead of jumping ship
in January and going for the easy
option, he should
be instead throwing the gauntlet down to his
fellow Villa strikers by telling them:
'your position is not safe'.

He probably thinks
Capello will be impressed by his
desire to play for his country, but
I'm not sure if his comments will go
the other
way; a desire to stay and battle for a place in the
Villa line-up could be perceived as an equally, if not more, desirable quality
to possess.

One man sure to be unhappy
at Heskey's comments is Martin O'Neill. The
Villa boss is fiercely loyal to his
players and he expects the same compliment to be returned. In this case, it has
not.

Considering the
fallout from Gareth Barry's public
admission he wanted to leave the club, it will now be interesting to see how O'Neill, and the
Villa fans, react.

View Comments