Robson: Rio will bounce back

Rio Ferdinand can beat the injury
curse of England captains – says the unluckiest skipper in their World Cup

The Manchester United defender will
lead Fabio Capello’s squad to South Africa despite playing only 13 Premier
League games this season. But Old Trafford and Three Lions legend Bryan Robson
believes Rio will banish doubts over his back injury and lead us to glory.

Robson said: “Of course people are
worried about Rio with him not having played too much for United this season.
But for me, to have a fresh Rio Ferdinand leading England is a massive boost.

“Yes he hasn’t got much football
under his belt but I am sure he’s refreshed and ready to go. Capello needs Rio
leading the side although luckily there are a few good leaders in the side.

“People like Steven Gerrard and
John Terry are key to getting the boys going. In the England sides I played in
there were loads of leaders – Terry Butcher, Ray Wilkins, myself. Strong
personalities and people to look to when the going gets tough. In international
football you need leaders so in that respect we were lucky. I’m not worried
about Rio. He will be fine I’m sure.”

If anyone is qualified to talk
about the World Cup and injuries it is Bobby Robson’s old Captain Marvel.
Robson, 53, quite simply had rotten luck on the world’s biggest stage. The
Manchester United legend was a fearless leader and one of the greatest midfielders
to ever play for the Red Devils and England.

Yet when he casts his mind back to
Mexico 86 and Italia 90, monumental disappointment and injury heartache flash
through his mind. Robson, 53, quite simply had rotten luck on the world’s
biggest stage. The Manchester United legend was a fearless leader and one of
the greatest midfielders to ever play for the Red Devils and England.  Robson dislocated his shoulder in England’s
second group game against Morocco at Mexico 86 and missed out on England’s
charge to the quarter-finals and eventual exit at the hands of Argentina and
Diego Maradona.

And four years later, an Achilles
injury flared up in against Holland and meant more personal anguish as England
reached the semi-finals.

Robson added: “It was massive blow
for me to get injured in successive World Cups. “I had a good career but on the
biggest stage, that’s where your reputations are made. In 1986 when I
dislocated my shoulder, Bobby Robson wanted me to stay with the lads in the
hope that if we reached the semis, I would be able to come back. Of course, Maradona
put paid to that. The injury in Italia 90 though was worse. I came into the
tournament having won the FA Cup and was feeling great. Then my Achilles went
and that was that. I went straight home and had to get it sorted out.

“The goal I scored after 27 seconds
against Spain in 1982 was special but then all the injury worries were over our
two best players – Trevor Brooking and Kevin Keegan. That affected us and the
fact we went out having not lost a game was difficult to take. But the problems
I had in the other two finals remain major disappointments.”

Fast forward to this summer,
though, and Robson has high hopes for Capello’s side. He reckons Spain and
Brazil will be the teams to beat in South Africa but said: “We have been drawn
in a decent group and sometimes it really is the luck of the draw which helps
you go far.

“We have got that and to get to the
semi-finals would be good. To win, of course, would be magnificent but there
are a lot of teams capable of winning the World Cup. For me Spain have some
great players and the likes of Fernando Torres and David Villa could well be
the difference.

“But at least for England, Capello
have a manager who knows exactly what he’s doing. He commands the respect of
the team and if Gerrard and Wayne Rooney can prove they are world class talents
we will have a chance. They can make the difference and I hope this World Cup
leaves a lasting memory for all the right reasons.”