Football: Ferdinand finds his form

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The Independent Online
LES FERDINAND, the driving force behind Tottenham's FA Cup win over Wimbledon, has set his sights on a fresh start with England.

Ferdinand's powerful performance was too much for Wimbledon in Tuesday night's fourth-round replay at White Hart Lane as he inspired his side to a 3-0 victory.

Ferdinand is finally showing signs of returning to form and that will be good news for whoever succeeds Glenn Hoddle in the long term as England coach. "It is just a case of getting my form right here," Ferdinand said. "It hasn't been right so I haven't been included in the England squad. But once I get going consistently and score goals then I hope I can get back in."

If Ferdinand could make it back to his best form, he would be a challenger to Alan Shearer and Michael Owen for a regular place in the England team. He has the second-highest all-time goalscoring record in the Premiership after Shearer, and was one of the first six players to earn a place in the FA Premier League Hall of Fame.

Ferdinand had a hand in two of the three goals against Wimbledon, a result which sets up a fifth-round trip to Leeds. It was confirmation that he has now secured his place in the team, having lost out a couple of weeks ago to Chris Armstrong. "It was pleasing to get out there and perform well and get a result, although I am disappointed I didn't score," Ferdinand said.

"But if I keep performing like that then the goals will come soon enough. I felt good out there and things are going right for me. It is a case of staying away from injuries and working hard in training. I have had a bit of a run in the side and I am starting to feel good.

"The manager knows what I am capable of doing, he just needed to see me doing it. It is the same for the Spurs supporters. They know what I can do but they want to see me doing it in a Spurs shirt.

"I was substituted before the end because I am one booking away from suspension and I got a lovely reception from the fans when I came off. But it is about time I started performing like that for Tottenham. I just want to perform on a consistent basis and add the goals."

Ferdinand's team-mate Ian Walker is also hoping to stake a claim for a recall as one of England's squad goalkeepers. He, too, has fought his way back into the Spurs team after a rough time.

He said: "I was disappointed not to be part of the World Cup squad but if I keep performing well every week then I hope I can get back on the international scene."

The Everton manager, Walter Smith, must decide whether to plunge his 18 year-old forward Francis Jeffers into the first team as a possible solution to his side's chronic goalscoring problems.

Smith watched Jeffers - who this week received a call-up to England's Under-18 squad - score a hat-trick in Tuesday's 5-1 FA Youth Cup fourth- round win at Swindon. Everton, the holders, now travel to Sheffield Wednesday in the next round.

Jeffers is considered one of the most gifted natural strikers at Goodison, and with Everton having scored only 13 League goals this season, Smith is considering calling him into the squad for Sunday's game at Derby County.

Jeffers has already joined the England youth squad to prepare for next Tuesday's match with France at Wycombe, but Everton have the option to recall him for the weekend game, which Smith is likely to exercise.

With Danny Cadamarteri suspended and Michael Branch out with a hamstring injury, Everton have limited options as to who partners Ibrahima Bakayoko in attack, although there is possibility that Don Hutchison could be pushed forward from midfield. Jeffers said: "I hope I'm included at the weekend, I don't think I have done myself any harm and I would give it my best shot if I was involved."