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Page last updated at 18:44 GMT, Wednesday, 2 June 2010 19:44 UK

Theo Walcott 'can come back stronger' - Rio Ferdinand

Ferdinand sympathises with Walcott

By Simon Austin

Captain Rio Ferdinand says Theo Walcott can use the experience of being left out of England's World Cup squad as the catalyst to reignite his career.

Ferdinand was dropped by Kevin Keegan for Euro 2000 and says it was the major turning point in his own career.

"I've been in the same position Theo is in now and it's the worst feeling in the world," said the 31-year-old.

"But I evaluated everything and decided to step up. Otherwise I was going to be playing in the lower leagues."

Ferdinand knows what it is like to be a surprise inclusion in a World Cup squad, as Walcott was in 2006, only to be dropped abruptly.


The defender was taken to the 1998 World Cup - although he did not play in any of England's matches - by Glenn Hoddle as a callow 19-year-old while still at West Ham.

But he found himself jettisoned by Keegan for the 2000 European Championships, with the likes of Sol Campbell, Tony Adams, Gareth Southgate and Martin Keown chosen ahead of him.

He remembers being "devastated" but said he used the experience to turn his life around.

"I was upset, embarrassed, my pride was hurt," said the Manchester United centre-back, who was speaking at Nike's No More Talk event in London on Wednesday.

"But I looked at myself and asked a lot of questions. Was I training hard enough? Was I concentrating fully on football? Was I giving my all to football? Was I going out too much?

"I wanted to be playing for England and for the best team in the world, so I knew I had to work hard.

"I started training in a park near my mum's house before pre-season and the following November I signed for Leeds.

"Theo went to the last World Cup as the protégé, and things haven't panned out for him as people would have expected.

Rio Ferdinand celebrates with Theo Walcott
Walcott grabbed a brilliant hat-trick during England's qualification

"I'm sure he'll go away and try to hit the manager between the eyes and be a part of the squad again."

His career continued on an upward trajectory after that. Ferdinand was one of the stars of the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea and signed for Manchester United for £30m soon after the end of the tournament.

Ferdinand said he was not surprised Capello had been so ruthless in axing Walcott - who had been a regular selection, when fit - during England's qualifying campaign.

"This manager doesn't make favourites, so I was open to anything happening," said Ferdinand, who played every game for England in the 2006 tournament.

"I don't think anything would have been a surprise, because I saw that was how the manager was.

"To say it was a surprise would be a detriment to the other players. Wrighty (Shaun Wright-Phillips) came on against Japan and was his usual industrious self.

"He can inspire his team-mates with the way he plays. He tempts people to make tackles and wins you free-kicks."

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see also
Walcott axe no surprise - Waddle
01 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
World Cup squad news as it happened
01 Jun 10 |  Football
"Walcott still has a future with England"
02 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Walcott left out of England squad
01 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Ferdinand vows to knuckle down
01 Jun 00 |  England

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