Rio Ferdinand will not tempt fate by dreaming about emulating Bobby Moore and lifting the FIFA World Cup™ for England.

After being installed as John Terry's replacement in February after Fabio Capello's dramatic reaction to the off-field turmoil the Chelsea skipper found himself in, Ferdinand will eventually pull the armband on for tonight's friendly against Mexico at Wembley.

It is the start of a journey he hopes will end on 11 July in Soccer City when England hope to be on top of the world for the first time since 1966. Yet Ferdinand dare not think about it, or the iconic status that would come his way should he become only the second Englishman to life the most cherished trophy of them all.

"As a kid I allowed myself to daydream and then we wouldn't get to the final," recalled the 31-year-old. "Since then I have always said I wouldn't let myself get too emotionally involved with various scenarios for fear that it might not happen or I might not achieve the goals I set out to.

"People ask me about being captain or lifting the trophy but I cannot let myself go past that stage. Maybe it is just superstition but I don't want to do that anymore."

Low-key captaincy
The philosophy fits in perfectly with Capello's no-nonsense approach. Being England captain may bring status in this country, but for the manager it is just another box to be ticked before the proper preparation begins.

"The manager told the lads I was the new captain, which was nice, but there was no song and dance," said Ferdinand. "It was done and then we move on. There is no time for small talk. It is about business and doing the work required if we are going to be successful."

Ferdinand insists there was never any doubt in his mind he would reach this stage, even when the back injury that plagued him for almost two years showed no signs of going away. At one stage before Christmas, Sir Alex Ferguson claimed he had "no idea" when his £29.1 million defender would eventually return. In the end, a series of injections sorted the matter out.

Ferdinand added: "There was no stability in my spine so in the end I had a series of injections in the ligaments of my spine to stiffen them up. I felt a relief almost immediately. It was a six-week course, with one injection a week. There was a lot of biting on pillows but I felt the relief almost immediately."

Alongside the injections went intensive training to ensure the spine did not get set in one position. "The specialist told me there would be a re-direction of the nerve pain but other than that he had no fear of any future problems."

It meant Ferdinand was available for nine of United's final 13 games, the biggest gap being caused by a groin injured he suffered in the draw at Blackburn that ultimately killed his dream of winning a fourth consecutive title. Whisper it very quietly near Ferguson, but a FIFA World Cup winners' medal would make up for that disappointment.

Experience is key
And while Ferdinand is not getting lured into the over-confidence for which this country's football supporters are so famed, he does see genuine reasons to be positive. "This is the most experienced squad we have had," said Ferdinand.

"A lot of the players have got to the latter stages of the Champions League most years and also played a lot of England games. We have also been together quite a few years now and been through a lot of different experiences. Now it is about pulling us all together and getting that winning tournament mentality."

It is tempting to state this group of players have been in exactly the same position before. Big things were anticipated in 2002 and 2006 - and expectations were unfulfilled. What is the difference now?

"Fabio Capello has to be one of the best managers," observed Ferdinand. "He has won the league everywhere he has been and he has won the Champions League.

"Everyone could see the errors of last time but I don't think there will be any room for distraction this time. The manager would not allow it. You buy into his ethos because he has been successful and a very professional way of doing things."

For Ferdinand, it is much the same as life at Manchester United, from where a parting good luck message came, if not quite a hope for glory. "He did, yes," replied Ferdinand when asked whether Ferguson had wished him best wishes. Did he say come back with the trophy? "He didn't quite go that far, no."