Ferdinand fit and relieved to regain England captaincy

ENGLAND vs MONTENEGRO

ENGLAND captain Rio Ferdinand admits he feared he had lost the armband forever, as he prepares to lead out the side again in tonight’s Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro.

Injuries have meant Ferdinand has only skippered England twice since being appointed captain earlier this year, while fitness struggles have seen him lose the honour at his club Manchester United. In his absence Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard, many observers’ preferred candidate, has excelled in the role, earning praise from Fabio Capello, a man seldom given to lavish acclaim.

But Ferdinand is fit to feature in his first competitive international for 12 months at Wembley this evening, and Capello has handed the armband back to the relieved centre-back.

“With all the hype that surrounds these kinds of situations, it does bring an element of doubt into your mind,” said Ferdinand. “You end up thinking, ‘Will I or won’t I?’.”

Capello, who has previously expressed his bemusement at the importance attached to the role of captain in England, insisted Ferdinand’s reinstatement was automatic.

“When Rio played, Stevie was always vice-captain,” he said. “Rio is back. He will start as captain. These are the rules. I told Stevie he was a fantastic captain but he will have to play like a captain without the armband. He has to be a leader.”

Ferdinand’s availability has become even more important after Chelsea captain John Terry withdrew from the squad with injury. Everton’s Phil Jagielka is also out, so Manchester City’s Joleon Lescott is tipped to partner Ferdinand at the centre of defence.