Mark Hughes said that Anton Ferdinand would face a test of mental strength in today's FA Cup fourth-round match against Chelsea. The Queen's Park Rangers manager urged his player to use any abuse directed his way to inspire his level of performance.
Hughes, who played for a number of high-profile clubs including Chelsea, said he had welcomed abuse from opposition supporters, because he was able to use it to improve his game. Now the QPR manager expects Ferdinand to produce the same response. Indeed, if the defender cannot do so, his days at Loftus Road could well be numbered. Hughes, who replaced the sacked Neil Warnock earlier this month, has brought in two new defenders and he has been linked with more, including Christopher Samba of Blackburn.
Ferdinand was the subject of chants by Chelsea supporters during a Champions League match against Genk in October, after it was alleged that the QPR defender was racially abused by Chelsea's captain, John Terry, during a Premier League match at Loftus Road. Similar chants were reported after Chelsea's 0-0 draw at Norwich last weekend. Ferdinand claims to have received threats since the start of the police investigation into the incident involving Terry.
“The more abuse I had the better I played,” Hughes said, recalling his days with Manchester United in particular. “Some players embrace that and I used to love stick, opposition fans having a go at you. I just felt it was great to get out there and irritate them even more by playing well.
”That was always my attitude and there is no reason why it shouldn't be everybody else's. That is part of being a professional footballer. You have to be able to perform when circumstances are not ideal for you. That stands you out as a good player or a player who can't [play] at that level.“
Hughes said he had confidence in Ferdinand. ”I like to think I can judge if a player is ready to play on a Saturday and he's given me no sign that anything is weighing heavily on him,“ he said. ”He wants to play and his team-mates want him to play, he will get support from them and from me so that will be enough and obviously our fans will back him wholeheartedly.
“He has been excellent in the games that he's played. I have spoken to him about it and if I felt it was affecting him adversely in terms of what he could produce on the football field we'd have to have further conversations. But I've never felt that was the situation. He's very positive about the game.”
Meanwhile, Rangers have been linked with a move for the former Liverpool and Sunderland striker Djibril Cissé, currently at Lazio. The Serie A club have made Cissé available for £4m only six months after he joined from Panathinaikos.