LONDON (AFP) Rio Ferdinand has dismissed fears that he could break down during Englands World Cup campaign after a season in which he started only 12 of Manchester Uniteds Premier League matches.
Ferdinand, who was due to captain England on Monday for the first time since being named the permanent skipper, will travel to South Africa on the back of a campaign blighted by a complicated back condition which caused recurring problems in his groin and, at times, looked as it would prevent the 31-year-old playing any role in the World Cup.
But he insists that the setbacks he suffered towards the end of the campaign were down to run-of-the-mill stresses and strains and is confident that a six-week series of injections into his back have addressed the underlying problem that hampered him around the turn of the year.
The defender is even sufficiently bullish about his physical condition to brush aside suggestions that this could be his last opportunity to make an impression on a major tournament.
I think its more you guys (in the media) that think about that, he said ahead of Mondays warm-up match against Mexico at Wembley.
A lot of us will be thinking about going to the next tournament.
We dont think of it being the last one.
We think about it being the next opportunity for us to try to win something and well try and win it.
Ferdinand and the rest of Manchester Uniteds World Cup-bound players have been promised an extended break after the tournament with United boss Sir Alex Ferguson having revealed they will not be expected to resume playing until mid-September, a month into the 2010-11 campaign.
That reflects Fergusons concern over the number of injuries his squad suffered last season, of which Ferdinands problems were arguably the most significant.
At one point, just before Christmas, the Scot admitted he had no idea when the defender would play again and his publicly-expressed exasperation fuelled fears that Ferdinands career could be in danger of coming to a premature end.
The player himself however insists that depressing scenario never intruded on his vision of the future.
I never thought for one moment that I might miss the World Cup, he said.
Ive only missed three games since February.
I never had any doubts that Id be able to go.
The road to recovery was a painful one with Ferdinand having been obliged to endure a series of injections into the ligaments in his back under the supervision of Dr Simon Petrides, one of Englands leading specialists in the field.
I wasnt able to move as freely as I had in the past, he explained.
My spine was too lose, there was no stability.
Thats why I had the injections to stiffen up the ligaments.
There was a lot of biting on pillows but I felt relief almost immediately.
The injections themselves were not the only pain involved.
You have to train when you are having it done, to make sure that your spine heals the right way, Ferdinand added.
They told me to expect a re-direction of some of the nerve pain to different areas, but Im feeling good now.
The specialist said to me to expect a couple of deferred problems along the way but they will be minor.
Ferdinand inherited the captaincy as a result of John Terrys off-the-field indiscretions.
Terrys extra-marital affair with one-time England team-mate Wayne Bridges former partner resulted in Fabio Capello stripping the Chelsea defender of the role.
The result of that is should England go all the way in South Africa, it will be Ferdinand who emulates the late Bobby Moore by becoming only the second Englishman to accept the biggest prize in football.