Ex-Sunderland defender Anton Ferdinand opens up on sibling pressure and England ambitions

Former Sunderland defender Anton Ferdinand has opened up on the 'pressure' of playing in his brother's shadow.

Friday, 28th September 2018, 12:11 pm
Updated Friday, 28th September 2018, 12:17 pm
Anton Ferdinand has delivered some honest thoughts
Anton Ferdinand has delivered some honest thoughts

Ferdinand signed for the Black Cats in 2008 having developed a reputation as a fine centre back in his own right, despite the obvious comparisons with older brother Rio - who six years previously had joined Manchester United in a record-breaking deal.

And the defender, who recently left Sunderland's League One rivals Southend United and to join St Mirren, has spoken out about the pressure of trying to emulate his brother's achievements.

Speaking to BBC Scotland, Ferdinand has revealed how his older sibling's success inspired him - and that Rio was actually keen to see his younger brother better his own achievements.

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But naturally such a family connection brought added pressures, with the former Black Cat feeling he was often written off as being 'rubbish'.

"Seeing him do it and what comes with being a professional footballer, I wanted it all for myself," admitted Anton.

"That's why I worked hard as a kid and still work hard now. I'm still one of the last ones off the training pitch at 33 years old and want to play for as long as possible.

"People would say, oh that's Rio's brother, let's see what he's got, but if I didn't do something within the first five minutes that likened me to Rio, I was rubbish - because he was the best.

"He gave me advice. He wanted me to be better than him. He knew the pressure I was under. It made him proud that I was able to deliver when I needed to."

But with time, and indeed when he arrived at the Stadium of Light, Ferdinand had carved out a reputation of his own - which led then-manager Roy Keane to tip the centre back for future international honours.

Ferdinand himself believes that he should have played for his country, but consistency proved his stumbling block despite some stand-out performances when he emerged from the shadow of Rio.

"I should have played for England. I know I should have. I just wasn't consistent enough," he admitted.

"When I became Anton Ferdinand, not Rio's brother, it was such an achievement because I'd had it since I was nine years old. I felt like I'd done it and I half-relaxed.

"I'd go places and people would say, 'that's Rio's brother, that's Rio's brother'. Then all of a sudden, it was, 'that's Anton'. I was playing very, very well.

"Rio was the best in the world at the time I was coming through. To come out of the shadow of someone who is the best in your position, it is a big thing."