ENGLAND FANS SWUNG OPINION AWAY FROM RIO
England's away fans effectively changed the media's opinion on Friday. Before the San Marino game, sentiment was running 60-40 in Rio Ferdinand's favour. It was Roy Hodgson and the FA who were in the wrong. But the barracking of the Manchester United defender by fans during the 8-0 World Cup qualifying win forced a rethink from pundits. They pointed their finger outside the window, saw the wind had changed and are now going in with both feet on Ferdinand. If England's fans hadn't made their opinion heard, it would be Hodgson who would be getting it in the neck. And that's the saddest aspect of this whole affair. Ferdinand may have grievances over his treatment by England and the FA. But Hodgson is a good football man. A good man full stop. And he didn't deserve to be left out to dry by Ferdinand last week. You fancy England's away fans, who follow the team closely and see what Hodgson is doing up close, felt for the Three Lions coach and weren't going to let Ferdinand and his media supporters get away with making the coach the villain.
NORWICH PULL OFF TRANSFER COUP
Is the Premier League's new TV deal already at work? Norwich City have pulled off a massive transfer coup in agreeing terms with Sporting Lisbon for striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel. Mike Phelan, the Manchester United assistant manager, admitted their interest earlier this season, while Mike Rigg confirmed Manchester City were keen last season while he was in charge of football matters. After focusing on talent in the Football League, Norwich's first serious foray into the international market has been spectacular. Flush with the incoming TV cash, the Canaries were able to enter the market with confidence. A deal worth £8.5 million has been done when last summer Sporting were asking around double that price. Norwich is the right environment for Van Wolfswinkel, who went cold this season as interest from bigger clubs increased. Off the main radar, he'll be able to settle without the media gaze and you just fancy Chris Hughton helping the Dutchman break into Louis van Gaal's World Cup squad next year.
FERDINAND UNDER PRESSURE AT UNITED
The Lisbon source that first reported Norwich's Ricky van Wolfswinkel deal also broke news this week of Manchester United agreeing terms with Benfica for Ezequiel Garay. You just wonder whether Sir Alex Ferguson mentioned his plans to Rio Ferdinand when discussing his England selection before last week's withdrawal. Fact is, a deal is yet to be tabled to Ferdinand and should Garay arrive, competition at the back will be red hot next season with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones fit and available.
WEST HAM HAVE DEAL OF THE CENTURY
Deal of the century? It has to be close. For West Ham United to get a state-of-the-art stadium for an investment of £15 million is just incredible. The move will not only help attract better players, but the revenue potential from the ground's facilities will also help attract outside investment to either work with the two Davids, Sullivan and Gold, or even buy them out. Tony Gale is one dissenting voice, insisting West Ham will fail to fill the 54,000 seats,. But cynics shouldn't ignore the potential of a new fanbase. There's a chasm between the matchday experience offered by Upton Park and the Olympic stadium. People want modern-day comfort for their money these days and managed well, the move will bring in new fans who today are giving Upton Park a swerve.
WHY IS CHELSEA KID WORRYING ABOUT LOYALTY BONUSES?
At 16, Jack Wilshere's reputation was already growing across Europe. Barely having turned pro at Arsenal, agents from Italy came knocking promising a move to Juventus. But Wilshere, relying on his family to take of his career, was happy where he was. Five years on and we've never seen anything regarding contracts and bonuses from Wilshere's camp make it's way to the public arena. Contrast that to Ruben Loftus-Cheek, whose first deal as a pro at Chelsea was spread across the back pages yesterday. The money mentioned is crazy. And the big question has to be, why is a player at 17 worrying about being paid what he sees as his market value? Why is he worrying about loyalty and signing-on bonuses? At his age, shouldn't it just about be playing, enjoying the game and developing your craft? Do we write the kid off now? How will his teammates at Chelsea take this? Is he really so much better than the lad happy to take the trainee wage for the chance to pull on the Blue shirt and learn about the pro game at one of the biggest clubs in the world?
OWEN THE PLAYER AGENT?
You wonder how Michael Owen would advise the family of Ruben Loftus-Cheek. After announcing his retirement last week, the Stoke City striker has since revealed he plans to launch his own player management company. On and off the field, Owen is the ultimate pro and to have someone of his approach to the game influencing the country's young players can only be good for English football.
WILL KEANE ON WAY BACK AT MAN UTD
Will Keane is in the US with Manchester United's squad this week for the Dallas Cup. The England youth international was set to be named by Sir Alex Ferguson to his senior squad this season only to suffer a serious knee injury. United coaching staff see Keane matching the progress of Danny Welbeck and it's a positive development he is now at a stage in his rehab that he is training with Warren Joyce's U21 squad.