Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand has revealed how he once played in a Premier League game against Arsenal while drunk.
The teenage Ferdinand was at the start of his career with West Ham at the time. He’s since explained how there was a drinking culture within the squad, which influenced his behaviour.
The future England defender wasn’t supposed to be in the matchday squad for the first game of the 1996/97 season at Arsenal, so had three drinks at the bar. Only to find himself summoned to the changing room after West Ham winger Paulo Futre stormed out of the ground in a bizarre row about not getting the No 10 shirt.
“When I was young, I was crazy, I could spend all day drinking,” Ferdinand explained on The Mo Giligan Podcast. “I could drink 10 pints and then switch to vodka.
“[Before Arsenal] I had had three brandies with co in the players’ lounge. Then the kit man came and said: ‘Rio, you’ve got to get changed’ – and I had a brandy and coke in my hand.
“I was like, ‘Rah, had three brandy and cokes and about to play at Highbury.'”
“I was on the bench thinking: ‘please don’t put me on, I can’t go on this pitch after three brandies and cokes’ – and then I was brought on.”
We feel your pain, Rio. Three brandy and cokes is no preparation for facing an Arsenal team that featured Dennis Bergkamp and Ian Wright.
West Ham lost the game 2-0 thanks to goals from John Hartson and Bergkamp – but both came in the first half. So West Ham didn’t actually concede with Ferdinand on the pitch for the end of the game.
“I remember we got a corner and the ball was at the other end obviously,” Ferdinand recalled.
“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.”
Ferdinand admits that he overindulged in alcohol early in his career. “Elements of my career are a blur,” he told The Guardian in 2019. “People talk about performances and results at certain times in them games and I just sit and nod my head.
“I haven’t got a clue what they’re talking about. I don’t remember.”
Ferdinand left West Ham for Leeds United in 2000, then joined Manchester United in 2002 for £30 million – a world-record fee for a defender at the time.
At Old Trafford, he went on to win six Premier League titles and a Champions League, among many other trophies. With none of those games played while he had a pre-match brandy and coke in his system, of course.