When Rio Ferdinand burst onto the scene with West Ham, veteran defender Neil Ruddock took the youngster under his wing. Ever since, he’s watched with admiration as Rio has realised his potential…
What did you make of Rio when you first came across him?
He wasn’t quiet! To be fair, he’s never been quiet, he’s always been loud and a very funny boy. Everyone loved him and wanted to be his mate. He was infectious with that cheeky smile. He was a young kid, everyone wanted to be around him because he made you laugh. My second impression of him was what a good player he was. He’s the best I’ve played with. I played with all sorts, but Rio was the best. You can see why Harry Redknapp called him a Rolls Royce.
Was it evident that he was something special?
Yeah, you could see it even then. You can see a good player, but Rio Ferdinand could play in any position on the pitch, even at international level. He can play along the back four, along the midfield but I won’t say up front because he is one of the worst finishers I’ve ever seen in my life! He’s scored a few, but he can’t beat me on goal scoring.
How did he fit into the dressing room?
He was brilliant. When the lads were 15 or 16, Harry used to let them train with the first team because he knew them, so we had the likes of Rio, Michael Carrick and Joey Cole. They were around the first team dressing room, so when they came into team they were already one of the chaps and one of the lads, so it wasn’t a hard transformation for them.
Was he intimidated by some of the character in that dressing room?
He is a south London boy, Rio, so he could hold his own and he knew the score. The banter with West Ham was brilliant. One of my favourite teams that I played for was Tottenham, the best team was Liverpool but the best dressing room I ever played in was West Ham, just because of the banter. At the