Defender speaks ahead of Bolton gameReading centre-half Anton Ferdinand wants the Royals supporters to get behind the club, the players and the manager for tomorrow’s fixture against Bolton Wanderers at Madejski Stadium.
It’s a 3pm kick-off on our own patch against the Trotters, and the former West Ham and Sunderland defender wants everyone pulling together for the common goal...three points.
“I urge fans to be behind us and the manager – I want them to come and support our team, and the manager is part of our team, the head of our team,” he said. “I want them to come and support him like they have done during his whole time here. He is building something very good here.
“Obviously there has been a lot of talk about the manager, and whether he is staying or whether he is going. But the news has come through that he is staying and the lads are very, very happy.
“He is building something here and we’ve seen it in the first third of the season. We have been playing some fantastic football and winning a lot of games – obviously the last four or five haven’t gone our way, but this is a league which is unpredictable and where everyone beats everyone.
“We’re still in touching distance of being amongst it come the business-end of the seasons – it’s not like we’ve taken a dip in form and we’re miles off of it. All it takes is a few wins to take us back on track.”
On a personal note, he is particularly happy that Steve Clarke is here to stay as Royals boss. It was on the manager’s suggestion that Anton went to train with Chicago Fire ahead of pre-season, where he looked to work himself up to speed ahead of the summer schedule.
“For me personally I am very happy that he is staying because he could have got rid of me in the summer because I didn’t contribute anything to the team last year, but he was willing to give me an opportunity,” he explained.
“He was the one who asked me to go and train in the US during the summer to come back ready for pre-season and stake a claim in the squad. I’ve got nothing but thanks for that and nothing but admiration for the manager.
“His organisation and man management is second to none and one of his strengths as a manager is that he is very direct and very open with us as players, which is rare in football as I’ve seen over the years.
“He was very open with us – we knew exactly what the situation was. When he turned up for training yesterday, you could see the lads were relieved and happy. He came in and did what he does best – got on the training pitch and was professional as ever.
“We represent the manager’s thought processes and the way he is as a person, which is honest and hard-working. We represent that on the pitch. This is a football world we’re in, and people know what the football world is about. So the fact that he went to speak to them doesn’t affect me at all.”
And for Ferdinand, who was limited to just two appearances last season with a persistent injury, he is just pleased to be involved again and contributing for the Royals.
“I’m delighted just to be playing,” he continued. “Last year was a grim season for me; something that I’ve never experienced and it was embarrassing for me to turn up to games and have people ask if I’m going to be fit next week and say ‘maybe’, and then I’m not.
“I was kicking every ball in the stand – I’m more nervous watching a game in the stand than I am playing in it! So it was horrible for me. I came with a reputation of playing in the Premier League and knowing what I was capable of bringing to the squad, and I wasn’t able to do it.
“To be able to showcase what I can do this year has been a blessing for me. It’s just nice to be involved. We’re building something great here; to be involved and play my part, whether that’s playing games or being on the bench or around the squad, as a senior player I’m more than happy to do it.
“I love training all week for that buzz on a Saturday, and being in that tunnel just before kick-off, lining up and hearing that noise as we’re walking out. There’s nothing better than that. When it has been taken away from you, and you start doing it again, it is an unreal feeling. I’m just thankful that the manager gave me the opportunity again.”
There is also a feature interview with Anton in 'The Royal', our matchday programme, for this weekend's fixture; he talks about the frustration of injury, playing with and against his brother Rio, and over 200 appearances in the Premier League.