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Rio raring to go

Filed: Monday, 14th August 2000
By: Matthew O'Greel

Rio Ferdinand has spoken for the first time about the rumours linking him with a move away from Upton Park, and of his hopes for the forthcoming season.

The centre back admitted it had been a tough summer, as he was forced to watch in silence as the media produced a string of reports forecasting his imminent departure to pastures new.

But Rio is ready to put it all behind him in order to give 100% to the Hammers cause.

"All I am concerned with is playing football for West Ham and getting back in the England team - those are my main objectives for this season" he said. "Of course it is flattering when teams like Barcelona are reportedly interested in signing me, but it's not something I dwell on.

"When the season kicks off on Saturday, I shall be playing for West Ham at Chelsea - as long as I shake off the injury in time - which I hope to do. It is a good start to the season because you always want to test yourself against the best."

Rio stressed how he was eager to impress England boss Kevin Keegan, and just how hurt he was by missing out on Euro 2000. "Anyone who doesn't get into the squad for their country when they have international aspirations is bound to be disappointed" he reflected. "This season I have set myself a target of getting into the England team and becoming a mainstay."

So the Hammers fans can look forward to watching a rejuvenated Rio, when most, if asked six weeks ago, would probably have thought he would be plying his trade elsewhere by now. But it's all water off a ducks back for the Hammers libero.

"It's been a lot easier to handle during the summer because I haven't been playing football, and therefore not in the limelight" Rio added. "It can be unsettling to have your name touted about all the time but that is part and parcel of football."

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