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Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 10:47 GMT
The James Beattie column
James Beattie


In the Premiership, you come up against the best players week-in, week-out.

Just what is it that separates, though, the cream from the rest?


Rio is able to put all his strengths together, and bring them to the table on a consistent, regular basis

What makes an outstanding player, outstanding?

I think the key word is: consistency.

It's the ability to perform at the top of your game just about every week that marks out the best.

You discover that when you play against somebody like Rio Ferdinand.

Rio's qualities are his strength, his pace, his reading of the game and his ability on the ball.

They're qualities that just about every defender in the Premiership posseses, otherwise, they wouldn't be playing in the top flight.

But what marks Rio out is that he is able to put all his strengths together, and bring them to the table on a consistent, regular basis.

Managers are understandably frustrated by players who are stunning world beaters one game in every five or six.

Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand
Consistently among the best, Rio Ferdinand

It's the players like Rio, who can turn it on at a consistently high level that justify managers shelling out 30m on him.

Players like Rio have an aura about them, that comes from his ability and the confidence he has in it.

When you get that sort of performance regularly from your players, you invariably get a top team.

That's what Manchester United are, and I stick by my pre-season prediction that they will win the Premiership.

Liverpool have got off to a flying start, and Arsenal are obviously a threat.

But as United showed against us, they never stop. They keep coming at you and it's no coincidence that they regularly score winning goals late in games.

It's the sort of consistency that the man-of-the-moment will need to work into his game.

Everton's Wayne Rooney has all the makings of a great player.


Wayne's certainly got all the physical tools needed to be one of English football's top strikers

He played against us earlier in the season, although he wasn't on long to make an impact.

I've seen his goals against Arsenal and Leeds and they obviously speak for themselves.

For a 17-year-old he's phenomenal and provided he continues on his current track, he will have a great future in the game.

I think Everton boss David Moyes is handling him just right at the moment.

Everton striker Wayne Rooney
Wayne's world's at his feet, with David Moyes looking over his shoulder

He's trying to protect Wayne, while giving him a taste of Premiership football.

By introducing him late in the game as a sub, it means Wayne can come on and go eyeballs out for 20-25 minutes.

Wayne's certainly got all the physical tools needed to be one of English football's top strikers.

To make him that, he will need to weld consistency on to those skills and talents he has.

Southampton striker James Beattie writes for BBC Sport Online


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