Football/Soccer

Rio Ferdinand helps launch New Era soccer agency office in west Belfast

Rio Ferdinand officially opened the office of New Era Global Sports Management at the Innovation Factory in Belfast. This is the first satellite office for the agency, which represents some of the world's top sports talent. Ferdinand, New Era Ambassador, is pictured with Shane Smith, Innovation Factory Community Engagement Officer (left), and former professional player Lee Mudd, who is running the Belfast office.

THE 'fear factor' is still a key element of success in modern football, insists Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand. However, the former England captain believes that the agency which represents him can reduce concerns for players from Ireland hoping to forge a professional career.

Ferdinand was in west Belfast yesterday for the official opening of New Era Global Sports Management's first satellite office, based at the Innovation Factory on the Springfield Road.

New Era is owned by former players Jamie Moralee and Peter Smith, while Belfast man Lee Mudd will run the new office.

Times have changed greatly since their playing days, but Rio insists that bosses can still demand the best from players:

"I think it's down to the managers. Sir Alex Ferguson, from my experience, there was a fear factor, especially early on in his career, that ran through every squad that he had.

Rio Ferdinand discusses Irish players in England and how he nearly played for Middlesbrough

"You wanted to please him, you wanted to run through brick walls for him, and you didn't want to disappoint him. If you thought you'd done something wrong, you knew that he'd be coming and there'd be something said.

"You can't tell me that Klopp's not like that, or that Pep Guardiola's not like that, because you see it – their players are thinking 'I need to do everything I can for him because he won't let me slack.'

"Other managers may be saying, 'Oh, the players nowadays, you can't do that' – well you've got to make them. There are still players out there who want to be the best and want to be guided, and need to be guided, more importantly. It's just about finding the right balance."

Ferdinand is confident that New Era can provide that right balance for the footballers on their books, both during and after their playing careers, by aiming to 'do everything' they can to bring the best out of them.

Rio Ferdinand with Alex Ferguson when the player signed for Manchester United in July 2002.

Another 'fear factor' can involve players being scared to tell their club about any off-field issues, which is where New Era come in:

"It's about having somebody, or a unit, who can facilitate. A lot of the players who come back, it ain't the football, it's the social element, the settling in.

"That's where we're strong, in the re-location process, building a team around these players to help them. If they need any support, any which way, we're there to give that. We have agents all over, so wherever someone goes there's [an agent] not a million miles away, who can go and sit with them and help them.

"That's what I wanted when I was playing. I didn't have it until I met these guys, and I demanded that.

"I thought, 'What's going to make it easier for me to be the best that I can be? The less worries I have off the pitch, the better I can be focussed on the pitch."

Few will achieve the success that Rio Ferdinand did, but the BT Sport pundit knows that there is plenty of footballing talent in Ireland, north and south:

"I played with loads of them: obviously Roy Keane, Robbie Keane, 'Sheasy' [John O'Shea], then I watched others come through, like [Craig] Cathcart, Jonny Evans, Corry [Evans], Robbie Brady, there's so much talent in the whole of Ireland.

"It doesn't matter where you come from, they are good players – and there'll be more coming. It's about being able to nurture young players and create the pathway so that those players can get the right opportunities [in professional football]".

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