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Page last updated at 08:47 GMT, Monday, 24 May 2010 09:47 UK

England's Rio Ferdinand concerned about Wembley pitch

International, Wembley: England v Mexico
Date: Monday, 24 May Kick-off: 2000 BST
Coverage: Live commentary 1930 BST on BBC Radio 5 live and BBC Sport website; live text on BBC Sport website and mobiles; also live on ITV 1

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Fit Ferdinand ready to lead England

England captain Rio Ferdinand has expressed concern about the state of the Wembley pitch ahead of Monday night's friendly against Mexico.

The danger posed by the uneven surface was highlighted when Blackpool forward Gary Taylor-Fletcher sprained his ankle in the play-off final on Saturday.

Ferdinand has joined fellow defender John Terry in questioning the number of non-football events held at Wembley.

"It is a football stadium. That is what it was built as," said Ferdinand.

In addition to showpiece football matches, Wembley also stages rugby league, rugby union and American football matches, music concerts and even motorsport events.

Ferdinand, 31, added: "If there are things going on there that make it a bad pitch to play on and hinders the spectacle of a football match, a decision needs to be made in that sense.

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"Having said that, there are stadiums all around the world that are used for different things and they seem to get it right, so we need to look at it."

Wembley's playing surface has been relaid 11 times since the £750m stadium was completed in 2007.

But after cutting up badly during the FA Cup final on 15 May, its imperfections were again exposed during Blackpool's play-off final win against Cardiff on Saturday as Taylor-Fletcher limped off after twisting his ankle.

With boss Fabio Capello due to name his final 23-man squad on 1 June, any injury suffered by an England player on Monday night could end their chances of playing in South Africa.

"The England players have got to be careful," said Taylor-Fletcher. "There is a big World Cup coming up for them. One slip and it could be all over for them.

"I have worn three pairs of boots on Saturday and in all of them I was either slipping over or getting caught [in the turf].

"After about 10 minutes my studs got caught in the ground. I changed my boots to a smaller stud and was slipping everywhere in them.

Gary Taylor-Flectcher
Taylor-Fletcher sports crutches as he joins Blackpool's celebrations

"I changed again at half-time and after five minutes exactly the same thing happened - the studs got caught in the ground, I went over [on it] and that was the end of it.

"I am another victim of the famous Wembley pitch."

Blackpool manager Ian Holloway refused to blame Taylor-Fletcher's injury on the playing surface but added his voice to calls for a rethink about the various uses of Wembley.

"If that's how we sort out a playing surface in our country in our best stadium then we've got it wrong because Arsenal can do it in the same town and get it spot on," Holloway told BBC Radio 5 live.

"I'm disappointed because I wanted it to be the surface that suits the rest of the ground but that's not the groundsman's fault, it's got to be the planning of the overall stadium."

Meanwhile, Ferdinand says he is mentally and physically ready to captain England at the World Cup after enduring an injury-hit season with Manchester United.

The centre-back made only 21 club appearances in a season disrupted by a back injury.

However, he said: "All being well I'll be in tip-top condition come the first game. I'm training hard and have three weeks to get into the World Cup groove.

"How can I not be refreshed? I'm used to playing 40, 50 games a season.

"I have not played anywhere near that amount this year, so I will be going out to the tournament in good condition.

People say we are going to win it. But we have respect for the other nations as well

Rio Ferdinand

"I am definitely buzzing. I spoke to my missus this morning and my little boys demanded to have England flags on the car and stuff like that. We can't wait to get into fever pitch."

England's World Cup campaign, which begins against the United States in Rustenburg on 12 June, will be Ferdinand's fourth.

He was an unused squad member 12 years ago in France when England were knocked out in the second round on penalties by Argentina.

However, Ferdinand did feature in the following two tournaments in 2002 and 2006, where England suffered quarter-finals losses to Brazil and Portugal.

And he will use the disappointment of those exits to guide his side in South Africa, while looking to build on the confidence brought by a qualifying campaign where the only dropped points came with a 1-0 defeat against Ukraine after qualification had already been assured.

"There is a confidence," continued Ferdinand. "But maybe we have been a bit naive in the past and got ourselves caught up in all the emotion that surrounds our country going to a massive tournament.

"People say we are going to win it. But we have respect for the other nations as well.

"Being captain is a fantastic honour and a responsibility that I warm to. But it is not something that is going to change me. I will conduct myself in exactly the same way.

"Even before I was made captain, the younger players knew I was an easy-going guy who they can approach which, in a way, is more important than being captain.

"When you have been to tournaments, you are more capable of being the kind of person that a younger player might need to speak to."



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see also
Barry faces race to prove fitness
26 May 10 |  World Cup 2010
Bent out to prove World Cup worth
24 May 10 |  World Cup 2010
England 3-1 Mexico
24 May 10 |  World Cup 2010
Gerrard urges England to deliver
22 May 10 |  World Cup 2010
Lure of Capello tempted Carragher
19 May 10 |  World Cup 2010
Capello names surprise Cup squad
11 May 10 |  World Cup 2010
World Cup venues
05 Dec 09 |  World Cup 2010


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