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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 March 2008, 07:09 GMT
Rio Ferdinand comes of age
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer in Paris

Rio Ferdinand
Ferdinand insists he has learned from his mistakes

Rio Ferdinand's rehabilitation as player and personality was complete as he sat in the plush surroundings of Paris's Four Seasons Hotel as England captain - the sins of the past, forgotten by new coach Fabio Capello.

As Ferdinand spoke eloquently about his journey from the dark days of December 2003 - when he was banned for eight months after missing a drugs test - one of his predecessors could have been forgiven for hanging on every forgiving word from Capello.

Ferdinand's elevation to the captaincy that was John Terry's under Steve McClaren is a one-off as part of Capello's search for a permanent leader for the 2010 World Cup campaign.

But there is a growing sense that Terry is not going to reclaim the crown as a matter of course during Capello's reign.

And while there is no suggestion Terry is being punished for his part in Chelsea's ugly behaviour in the draw at Spurs, the current hunt for a captain is a timely opportunity for Capello to remind any potential leader what is to be won and lost in the current backlash against player behaviour.

Nov 1978: Born in Peckham
May 1996: West Ham debut against Sheffield Wednesday
Nov 1997: Makes full England debut against Cameroon
Nov 2000: Joins Leeds in British record 18m deal
July 2002: Joins Man Utd for new record 30m fee
Dec 2003: Given eight-month ban after missing drugs test
Aug 2005: Signs new four-year deal after protracted negotiations
Oct 2005: Dropped by then-England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson after run of poor form
Mar 2008: Named England captain against France

Terry led Chelsea's rush on referee Mike Riley in the now infamous scenes at White Hart Lane, so the timing of Wednesday's friendly against France in Paris is perfect for Capello to lay down a marker for standards on and off the pitch - starting with his captain.

Ferdinand was down and out when he was banned from Euro 2004, but he spoke of his new maturity in the manner of someone who believes he can become Capello's voice on the pitch when the round of auditions is over.

Capello even tried out his improving English to deliver a history lesson on Ferdinand's misdemeanours when he said: "The past is past."

Ferdinand grasped the opportunity to state his case and outline his credentials as he said: "It has taken me a while to realise the responsibilities of being a professional footballer. I think I have grasped that now.

"I've got a young family and I am mature. I'm not ashamed to say I made mistakes growing up. I may make them again but will they be as costly as those I have made in the past? I hope not."

Ferdinand has previously been regarded as too casual a figure, and perhaps not responsible enough, to be a leader of men at international level - but he insists it is right to close the book on the past.

He explained: "If someone does something wrong in their life do you shut the door on them totally? I don't think that's the right way. This manager sees what he sees and he deems me to be the man to wear the armband."

And as Ferdinand delivered his verdict on the perfect captain, there was only one man on his mind.

They need to be role models when they play for England and their clubs

Fabio Capello on his England captain
"Roy Keane - simple", he said. "A fantastic captain who led by example, played well and got eight or nine out of 10 in every game. He was a great captain for me - symbolic of Manchester United."

Capello will be hoping for similar inspiration from whoever accepts the armband in future - with Aston Villa's Gareth Barry another name under serious consideration.

England's coach studied the evidence of his own eyes before handing the armband to Ferdinand.

He said: "I have watched him in training and in games and I have seen a very good professional. A captain must be an example to follow in training and on the pitch."

And in what could be seen as a coded message to other would-be leaders, Capello painted a wider picture of the responsibilities of England captain.

He added: "I would hope he would be a role model outside the game in life as well. This is not just for England, but for everything we do as sports people and show young people."

And a collection of future captains' ears could have been burning as he urged respect for officials as a keynote of his England reign.

Capello - who insisted he had not been put under pressure by the Football Association to leave players out after the White Hart Lane bust-ups - said: "They need to be role models when they play for England and their clubs. Part of this involves fair play and respect to referees and the public that comes to see the games.

"In that respect we need to get something back that we might be losing a bit."

Capello's words will have special meaning for Ferdinand when he leads his country out on Wednesday - and they will be words that will resonate with Terry when he next takes the armband.

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