Anton Ferdinand: Rio told me how strong Sunderland will be thanks to Man United old boys Brown and O’Shea

Sunderland's Anton Ferdinand training.
Sunderland's Anton Ferdinand training.
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ANTON Ferdinand insists brother Rio didn’t need to tell him twice about the fight for first-team football at Sunderland this season.

Sunderland face a dress rehearsal tomorrow for the start of the Premier League campaign when they face their final pre-season friendly at SPL outfit Hibernian.

It offers a last opportunity for those at Steve Bruce’s disposal to impress sufficiently to earn a starting spot at Liverpool seven days later.

Competition is particularly fierce in defence after Wes Brown and John O’Shea each ended more than a decade of service at Manchester United to sign for the Black Cats.

Although a persistent hamstring problem rules O’Shea out of tomorrow’s game and the trip to Anfield, both are expected to be regulars this season.

That leaves the likes of centre-half Ferdinand facing a scrap to feature, although the 26-year-old believes no one at the back can afford to let their standards drop.

Ferdinand told the Echo: “When you’ve got players like Wes and Sheasy coming into the squad, you’ve got to be on your toes. I’ve watched them enough myself to know about them.

“My brother has said what good lads they are and how much I’ll learn off them by training with them every day.

“He’s right, I’ve seen that already.

“Wes doesn’t break sweat but that’s the sign of quality defenders. A lot of the best defenders in the world are like that. When he needs to be upright or ready, he’s ready for the fight.

“There is a lot of competition but that’s great for Sunderland football club. If you’re not playing well, you’re not going to play the next week.

“But that’s how it should be at Premier League clubs.”

Ferdinand’s prospects of a starting spot were perhaps boosted by being selected alongside Brown in Tuesday night’s friendly at Hartlepool.

Bruce had split his first-team squad between the Pools game and the encounter with Darlington 24 hours later, in order for his players to get 90 minutes under their belts.

But the side at Victoria Park appeared to bear more resemblance to the one expected to line up at Liverpool on the opening day.

Ferdinand added: “There are 11 shirts up for grabs and between the two games, the lads have tried to grab them before the final game tomorrow.

“It was something that we needed, a lot of the key lads have got 90 minutes under their belts which was important.

“We knew we needed to get some fitness out of the two games as well as our quality back and we’ve shown that.

“Personally, I’m feeling sharper and stronger every game. In the last 15 minutes on Tuesday, I felt a lot stronger than I had in previous games.

“That’s good. We’ve got one more game before the kick-off and then a good week’s training to get ready for Liverpool.”