Rio Ferdinand claims England are showing a special unity at Euro 2012

Manchester United centre-back Rio Ferdinand believes the current England squad are showing a special unity that he has not previously seen.

Ferdinand was left out of Roy Hodgson's Euro 2012 squad amid fears of a fallout with potential defensive partner John Terry over the allegation that the Chelsea man racially abused Anton Ferdinand, Rio's brother. Terry denies the allegation.

And it has been argued that Ferdinand's absence has helped the team's cause due to a lack of discernible tension, and the current squad appear to be getting on just fine, summed up by some of the videos posted on the Football Association's TV channel.

Unlike in recent years, the FA have allowed fans to gain an insight into the camp's mood by showing short clips of various players playing pool, table tennis and video game Fifa 12 to pass their spare time.

Ferdinand has previous experience of being in an uncomfortable national set-up, and believes the way the team have come together and formed a united team ethic can only stand them in good stead for the rest of the competition.

Ferdinand told The Sun: "When I first started with England, players would sit in distinct groups.

"You would have a table for Manchester United players, another for the Liverpool lads and one for Alan Shearer and his mob.

"I didn't know where to sit for fear I would upset one group or another and be marked down as in a particular gang.

"It all sounds strange now but that's how it was in those days.

"I think it was partly because many of the Liverpool boys were proper Scousers, like Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman, while the Manchester United lads were real Mancs, such as Gary Neville and Paul Scholes.

"And it doesn't need me to explain how bitter the rivalry can be between the two teams, especially if you have grown up with it ever since you were a kid.

"When I was invited along to Euro 96, just to join in training for a couple of days, I sat with Paul Ince, who was with Inter at the time, and Les Ferdinand, because we were Londoners.

"Credit to Jamie Redknapp, who broke ranks and joined us too, even though he was then at Liverpool."

The 33-year-old believes that the squad's new-found harmony may be down to where players at rival clubs have been brought up, and can see that they are not as isolated as they once were.

He added: "In the squad today you have plenty of Manchester United and Liverpool players but many have had a different upbringing.

"Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing have moved to Anfield, yet are northeasterners.

"And, of course, Danny Welbeck knows Henderson from the time he was on loan at Sunderland.

"Also, a lot of them have grown up together through the Under-21s, so they are already good friends. It's great to see, though, in fairness, I don't think it has just happened in Roy Hodgson's time.

"Certainly under Fabio Capello, he insisted on everyone sitting together at meal times and he didn't expect any cliques.

"For myself, I always tried to mix with as many of the squad as I could once I became more established - and especially when I was made captain.

"That was because I remembered what it was like when I first came on the international scene and how, at times, you could feel a bit isolated."

Ferdinand also feels that Steven Gerrard's presence as captain in the squad has played a large part in something of a renaissance for England at the Euros.

Not many pundits or fans tipped Roy Hodgson to mastermind a success in Poland and Ukraine, but the former Leeds and West Ham man believes the appointment of Gerrard as captain, in particular, was a masterstroke from the former West Brom boss.

He said: "I'm sure Stevie, from his own experiences, realises the importance of team bonding.

"He has been chosen as the leader by Roy Hodgson when, before, I don't think managers properly trusted him as captain, even when they gave him the armband.

"Steven will know, like I did, that you can't have people being left on the fringes, not being included, and he has made a real effort to support all the players. He has more than 90 caps but this feels as if it is his defining moment in an England shirt.

"Stevie has won the Champions League with Liverpool and, if he could help win the Euros for his country, that would be some double.

"He is leading by example, has had three assists and taken on all the responsibility really well. He wants to be the one the team relies on.

"The game against Italy won't hold any fears for him. In fact, nobody should be afraid of them."

Ferdinand also believes that the Three Lions have nothing to fear against an Italian side that stumbled their way through the group stages, but insists they must be wary of Andrea Pirlo and Mario Balotelli.

He continued: "We are good enough to beat Italy and should go into it with confidence.

"But we have to beware of Andrea Pirlo spraying those passes about. If he gets that chance, he can be very dangerous. And you never know just what you're going to get with Mario Balotelli.

"There are times when he doesn't seem to be in the game at all. Then he just explodes and does something extraordinary."

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