Walcott snub shows no one's place is safe, says Ferdinand

Captain tells Arsenal winger to come back stronger but says reputations count for little
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The Independent Football

Rio Ferdinand's advice to Theo Walcott after he was dropped from England's World Cup squad was simple: never let it happen again.

If the team's captain had to give a verdict on the impact the omission will have, he would probably say that Fabio Capello's decision to go with established players is spot on. The Italian has selected a World Cup squad that is older and more experienced than any of its predecessors and Ferdinand believes there are parallels between England this year and the winners of 1998 and 2006, France and Italy. But the defender also knows exactly what the winger is going through after failing to make the cut for the European Championship in 2000 himself.

"Theo will go away and work hard to hit the manager back between the eyes," Ferdinand said. "He will make sure that he's part of the next squad after this championship.

"I have been there. It was the worst feeling in the world – devastation. I can understand fully how Theo and the other guys feel."

Ferdinand was told of his omission by manager Kevin Keegan at the England team hotel and insisted that however you are told, "any way is a bad way". He was then asked to take up a position on the bench for the friendly against Ukraine, which did little for his mood.

The low of that moment forced him to change his lifestyle and he has encouraged Walcott and the rest of Capello's unfortunate seven to go through their games and iron out any weaknesses. However, he does not think that when they found out how England's preliminary World Cup squad was to be reduced from 30 to the final 23 on Tuesday it should have come totally out of the blue.

Ferdinand said: "I can understand that Theo went to the last World Cup as the young protégé, as part of his development for this one, and it hasn't panned out the way people expected. But I don't think anything would have been a surprise for me. I saw the way that the manager was.

"No one's safe in this squad. Reputations may have got in the way in the past. Now you can't say to yourself, 'If I have two or three bad games I'm still going to play,' which was the attitude of some players in the past."

While Walcott was still struggling to come to terms with his omission yesterday, Ferdinand was holding court at a Nike No More Talk event. Just hours before the squad flew to South Africa, there were no signs that the burden of the nation's expectations were weighing heavily on his broad shoulders. He even poked fun at one of his predecessors, David Beckham, whose role in the preparations for this World Cup appears to have been to relieve the tension.

The former England captain's official role in South Africa will be as one of Capello's backroom staff and there will be ambassadorial duties too. But Ferdinand admitted: "We keep messing about with him and asking him 'what are you doing with the World Cup squad? You coaching? What are you bringing to the table?'"

Beckham may have fewer crossing sessions to lead on the training ground now that Walcott, who was looking forward to taking his advice, has been left behind. Ferdinand will turn to him for guidance on captaincy if he needs it but feels the experience that is in the squad already gives England a good chance of success.

This World Cup will be Ferdinand's fourth and he is perfectly at home on the biggest stage now. Not least, it seems, because he is not alone as a seasoned international. "If you look at other teams who have won things they've all had great experience," Ferdinand said. "That is a good omen for us. The French team that won the World Cup in 1998 had a lot of experience, as did Italy last time. We've got experience in all the right areas and it's a matter of knitting it all together, working together and becoming a good unit."

Having Shaun Wright-Phillips as one of those elements can only be to England's benefit, according to Ferdinand. The Manchester City winger missed out on the last World Cup when Walcott was the surprise inclusion. But now the tables have been turned, his captain is confident Wright-Phillips will make his six years of international experience and 31 caps count.

"Wrighty came on against Japan on Sunday and was his industrious self," Ferdinand said. "He's a player who has inspired his team-mates at City for years with the way he plays. He runs at people, he tempts people to make tackles, he can win you free-kicks around the box and he has a goal in him." He also has the advantage of Capello's patronage and if England are to fulfil their potential– and not regret leaving out Walcott – the Italian will need him to make the most of it.