Rio Ferdinand lifts lid on culture of cliques
Rio Ferdinand has given a scathing assessment of four of the England managers he served under, saying their squads lacked a team ethos and were dominated by cliques, and he does not believe Roy Hodgson's players are potential Euro 2016 champions.
The former Manchester United defender played under five England managers: Glenn Hoddle, Kevin Keegan, Sven-Goran Eriksson, Steve McClaren and Fabio Capello. There was only one he felt had the wherewithal to come close to winning anything.
"Glenn Hoddle was good," says Ferdinand, who won 81 England caps. "Hoddle was very organised. He had a team starting to believe in his methods. We were on to something good. All the others? No. Only Hoddle. All the others: no chance."
Speaking ahead of taking his place on the BBC pundits' sofa during Euro 2016, it is a damning indictment from an insider whose international career spanned from 1997 to 2011.
His belief is that none of the managers who followed Hoddle came close to replicating the cohesiveness and spirit among their charges that they were used to with their club sides.
"There were a lot of cliques," he recalls. "When I first joined (Alan) Shearer would have his table with the chosen few, there'd be a Liverpool table, a United table and one for the dregs and hangers-on like me.
"It is about a team unit, core values of being together. Our generation of top players were individuals but never became a collective."
For that systematic failure to make the most of opportunity, he blames the man at the top.
"It is the manager. Whatever way he does it, it is down to the manager to create that environment. Until a manager creates that you are pushing against a closed door. It won't happen. There is only so much individual talent can work."
Ferdinand's robust opinion about the managers is interestingly timed. This tournament in France will be the first since before Hoddle was in charge to feature none of the 'golden generation' of which he was such a key component.
Golden in name only, Ferdinand believes the level of expectation undermined that group's ability to give of their best.
"We would say we were not feeling the pressure but looking back, there was definitely a huge pressure," he says.
"You should be used to it, but when you play for your country at the major tournaments it is a different type of pressure.
"It consumes you in a tournament, overpowers you almost because you know the country is behind you."
The manner in which the weight of the national shirt becomes oppressive is at least one burden absent from the current side, as they prepare in Chantilly.
No-one is suggesting they are about to storm the tournament. Certainly Ferdinand is not.
"We cannot say they are potential winners," he says. "If they win it like Leicester, it will be a great achievement, but I don't think there is anything to suggest they are potential winners when you look at the other teams."
Though oddly, he believes, the very lack of the debilitating drain of expectation could serve them well. But, he feels, if they are to succeed it will require the manager to make the most of their potential and organise the side into a winning unit.
"This is a great opportunity for him," he says of Roy Hodgson. "He has a lot of exciting young players who are starting to show consistency. But doing it for your Premier League team is different. There is a lot to deal with but we have seen some promising signs."
He adds that if they are to do better than wide assumption, then it will require a substantial improvement in managerial input.
"There was not a genuine belief in the ideas coming across from the managers to the players," he says of the majority of his career as an international. "We'll need a togetherness and that belief in the philosophy of the manager always lacking from England squads in the past. I would like to think this time there will be a big change with this group of players.
"Whatever happens, to go forward, the players need an environment where there is genuine belief and togetherness. That comes from the manager, nowhere else."