Self-doubt hindered England's golden generation, Rio Ferdinand tells rugby skipper

Friday 31 Jul 2020
Ferdinand was speaking to England rugby captain Owen Farrell as part of the Heads Up campaign to get football fans talking about mental health

Former England defender Rio Ferdinand says he believes a lack of self-belief affected the team's chances of success in the early 2000s.

Ferdinand was speaking to Owen Farrell, captain of England's senior men's rugby team, as part of Sound of Support – a new series of videos in aid of the Heads Up campaign.

The former West Ham, Leeds and Manchester United man won 81 caps for the Three Lions between 1997 and 2011, playing at two FIFA World Cup finals.

And he says self-doubt was a key factor in the team being unable to win a tournament during that period:

"The shirt was a heavy shirt when I played for England," Ferdinand admitted, "more so than Man United, for different reasons: the expectation, the years of disappointment that's gone before us. Our year was called the 'golden generation', which heaped a bit more pressure on at the time.

"The big difference between wearing an England shirt and a Man United shirt was that I felt very comfortable and confident at Man United that we were on the right lines, the right pathway to success, whereas with England I didn't necessarily believe in it, when I look back now. At the time I did but, with hindsight, I didn't believe in the tactics.

"With that comes doubt, and when that doubt creeps into any sportsman's mind then you know you're on a losing run.

"I think that's changed – it looks like it's changed under Gareth [Southgate] with the way his approach is, the way he's got these young players coming through and moulding together."

Ferdinand is consoled by Sven-Goran Eriksson after England's exit from the 2006 FIFA World Cup

Having been at Twickenham to see England's win over Wales in the 2014 Six Nations, Ferdinand spoke of his admiration at how Farrell and his team-mates deal speak about their feelings.

He told Farrell: "I've been in the dressing room with you guys after a game, and I remember me and Michael Carrick came out and were like... I dunno, you guys being able to breathe, talk and communicate is a massive, massive difference to what it was with our generation. 

"I don't know about now but, in my generation, for us to go into a room and a guy to sit there and say 'guys, listen, it's the cup final tomorrow and I'm so nervous' – everyone would sit there and go 'what?!' and you'd almost look at him as if to say he's a weak link, he's going to be a nightmare tomorrow for us.

"Now, looking back, maybe I could've helped a few people through who would've helped us in the long run, if I had put an arm around the shoulder a bit more or been a little bit softer around those kind of issues."

By Jim Lucas