Manchester United centre-back Rio Ferdinand believes the England squad are showing a special unity he has not previously seen.
Ferdinand was left out of Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2012 squad amid fears of a fall-out with potential defensive partner John Terry over allegations the Chelsea man racially abused Anton Ferdinand, Rio’s brother. Terry denies the allegation.
And it has been argued Ferdinand’s absence has helped the team’s cause due to a lack of discernible tension, and the current squad appear to be getting on just fine.
Unlike in recent years, the Football Association have allowed fans to gain an insight into the camp’s mood by showing short clips of various players playing pool, table tennis and video game FIFA 12 to pass their spare time.
Ferdinand has previous experience of being in an uncomfortable national set-up, and believes the way the team have come together and formed a united side can only stand them in good stead for the rest of the competition.
Ferdinand told The Sun: “When I first started with England, players would sit in distinct groups.
“You would have a table for Manchester United players, another for the Liverpool lads and one for Alan Shearer and his mob.
“I didn’t know where to sit for fear I would upset one group or another and be marked down as in a particular gang.
“It all sounds strange now but that’s how it was in those days.
“I think it was partly because many of the Liverpool boys were proper Scousers, like Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman, while the Manchester United lads were real Mancs, such as Gary Neville and Paul Scholes.
“And it doesn’t need me to explain how bitter the rivalry can be between the two teams, especially if you have grown up with it ever since you were a kid.
“When I was invited along to Euro 1996, just to join in training for a couple of days, I sat with Paul Ince, who was with Inter at the time, and Les Ferdinand, because we were Londoners.
“Credit to Jamie Redknapp, who broke ranks and joined us too, even though he was then at Liverpool.”
The 33-year-old believes the squad’s new-found harmony may be down to where players at rival clubs have been brought up, and can see they are not as isolated as they once were.
He added: “In the squad today you have plenty of Manchester United and Liverpool players but many have had a different upbringing.
“Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing have moved to Anfield, yet are northeasterners.
“And, of course, Danny Welbeck knows Henderson from the time he was on loan at Sunderland.
“Also, a lot of them have grown up together through the Under-21s, so they are already good friends. It’s great to see, though, in fairness, I don’t think it has just happened in Roy Hodgson’s time.
“Certainly under Fabio Capello, he insisted on everyone sitting together at meal times and he didn’t expect any cliques.
“For myself, I always tried to mix with as many of the squad as I could once I became more established – and especially when I was made captain.
“That was because I remembered what it was like when I first came on the international scene and how, at times, you could feel a bit isolated.”
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