Rio Ferdinand recalls playing against Arsenal after downing pre-match brandies

Rio Ferdinand has revealed his first ever appearance against Arsenal came after he had downed three brandy and Cokes in the players’ lounge.

The former England defender started his career at West Ham United and was called into action unexpectedly for a Premier League match at the start of the 1996/97 season.

Ferdinand was at Highbury but had not initially been included in the matchday squad.

That was until teammate Paulo Futre refused to play due to not being given the No.10 shirt as promised, forcing the Hammers’ kit man to dash upstairs to inform Ferdinand he was involved.

“I had a brandy and Coke in my hand. ‘Put it down’,” Ferdinand recalled to the Sun.

Rio Ferdinand admitted drinking several brandies before playing Arsenal

“I was like, ‘Rah, had three brandy and Cokes and about to play at Highbury’.”

Fortunately for a then 17-year-old Ferdinand he only started among the substitutes, but did eventually come on in place of Slaven Bilic after 87 minutes.

“I was on the bench thinking, ‘Please don’t let me come on, three brandy and Cokes, I can’t come on this pitch’. And then I came on.”

And while his involvement was limited to a brief cameo, Ferdinand clearly remembered it feeling a lot longer, no thanks to having to man mark Arsenal legend Ian Wright.

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Speaking about the match previously to comedian Mo Gilligan on Instagram, he said: “I remember we got a corner and the ball was at the other end obviously.

“I’m on the halfway line marking Wrighty and it is all starting, people getting into position and Wrighty is standing there just looking at me.

“He was just screwing me and I’m just trying to look over him just not taking any notice and Wrighty’s gone ‘I know you can see me, look at me, look at me’.

“And then he poked his big fingers in my forehead so I pushed and he went ‘I got you’.”

Ian Wright scoring against Blackburn Rovers
Ian Wright gave Ferdinand a tough time at Highbury

But his clash with Wright was nothing new to the Arsenal forward who had done it to other top flight defenders.

“I saw Michael Duberry a little while later and he said he’d done the same thing to him,” Ferdinand added.

Ironically Wright would move to West ham in 1998 meaning he and Ferdinand became team-mates.

The defender sought answers and asked why he’d gone about his business in that manner.

He said: “Years later I said to Wright ‘why was you like that?’ and he went ‘I gotta get up, I gotta get up on you. I can’t just let you come on and think you’re going to have an easy game. This is what I do’.”

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