Ferdinand triumphs in first debate

Bill Hack chief football correspondent

Rio Ferdinand is overwhelming favourite to be named England captain for the World Cup after ‘battering’ his rivals Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney in the live leadership debate aired last night.

Pundits immediately proclaimed Ferdinand as the winner after Gerrard and Rooney wilted under intense questioning from host Jeremy Paxman during the debate.

Ferdinand, in contrast to his rivals, maintained his legendary composure – often turning defence into attack – throughout the 90-minute contest, which was triggered by the vote of no confidence in former leader John Terry.

The Manchester United defender must still negotiate two further contests but analysts were unanimous in their verdict that he is now in pole position to land the still vacant job of leading England to the World Cup in South Africa this summer.

“Rooney and Gerrard took a battering,” one journalist told Sporting Balls.

“But Rio was at his unflappable best. Ultimately, he came across as ‘more human’ than the candidates. And that pledge to win the World Cup within months was inspired and a real vote winner.”

Rooney, who had gained momentum in recent weeks, betrayed his inexperience by making a ‘devastating’ tactical error on the night.

The Manchester United forward admitted he ‘deeply regretted’ his decision to go for a late chicken vindaloo prior to filming after he began to sweat profusely under the intense studio lighting and a severe grilling from Paxman.

His detour to the curry house also meant that he missed his five-hour make-up session. And analysts suggested the effect on television audiences would at best be unease with his calmness under pressure and at worst a ‘nauseous repulsion’.

Gerrard did not fair much better in the spotlight. Experts said his body language – shuffling around like a five-year-old who needs a piss and staring at his feet – would fail to inspire confidence in the voters.

Doubts were raised over the scouser’s ability motivate his players with Churchillian oratory.

The Liverpool skipper also came under pressure for his ‘bar room brawl diplomacy’. And he was heckled for being un-patriotic and ‘talking down’ England’s prospects of winning the World Cup after he mocked Ferdinand for ‘making promises he could not deliver’.

Ferdinand’s evening was not without awkward moments. The United defender, wearing an Armani suit and diamond-studs earrings, was twice caught day-dreaming – staring into the ceiling lights and humming the Neighbours theme tune.

On the second occasion a furious Paxman finally lost his temper. The Newsnight host knelt down, seized his size 12 shoe and hurled it at the England international – yelling ‘you dopey f**king c**t’ as the shoe flew through the air.

But Ferdinand dodged the sharp Italian-styled missile and responded by insisting he had not taken any illegal substances and that his previous ban was for ‘missing a test and nothing more’.

The next debate will be chaired by Piers Morgan in a fortnight’s time, while the live final will be hosted by Simon Cowell and include music from Cheryl Cole and the M Peope before the final vote.

* This story was constructed from 100% fiction.

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