Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Ferrante the face of Melbourne
Melbourne Victory midfielder Michael Ferrante is the face of the club in a multi-million dollar marketing campaign to promote the Hyundai A-League. Many observers would be surprised to find the face of Melbourne Victory is not an Archie, a Muskie or a Danny, but former West Ham star Michael Ferrante.
Melbourne born and bred, Michael has lived the dream of all footballers, having captained West Ham reserves to a 5-0 FA Cup triumph before embarking on a stint in Italy.
Resident Melbourne Victory scribe John Bonacci took time out to get to know the man behind the face of Melbourne Victory's advertising blitz.
Congratulations on signing for Melbourne Victory. You must be pleased to have been one of the first few signings?
I had been talking to the club before Archie had officially signed, and it was pretty much a done deal straight away. The whole time I'd been back from overseas I'd been waiting hopefully for the phone call. I'd been waiting for six months and when the call came, I wasn't prepared to stuff around and negotiate ridiculously. I'm just happy to have been selected.
Describe your amazing West Ham days, and winning that lucrative FA Youth Cup?
We had an amazing team, and people were saying we were going to be the next Manchester United. That was the talk of the whole of England. The thrill wasn't just the actual final, but the whole tournament was special. We were beating teams like Arsenal and Everton five nil and we were unstoppable.
Did that tag of the next best thing in English football put any added pressure on the lads?
It did, but we were incredibly confident and pretty arrogant really. In the final, we'd beaten Coventry 3-0 in the away leg, and then with the tie practically sealed, we won 6-0 at home in front of a sellout crowd of 26,000 at Upton Park. That's the sort of team it was, and I was lucky enough to captain that team. We had Joe Cole, Michael Carrick in the team, and Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand were a year older. I made some great friendships with guys I still catch up with.
How crazy was Paolo Di Canio?
He was a weird guy. He was so professional that he was crazy. That is how he was. Most of his outbursts regarded the professionalism or lack thereof. He was passion personified. I was fortunate enough to be able to speak Italian to get to know him a little better than most, and we spoke for hours about Serie A and his days at AC Milan.
So it sounds like you learned a great deal from the experienced heads at West Ham.
Absolutely. Ian Wright was the best example. As much as he looked like a larrikin on the pitch with the things that he did and the way he celebrated his goals, he was the ultimate professional. The guy who freaked me out the most was Frank Lampard, and the amount of extra training he'd do on his own was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen. I'm not surprised he's been Chelsea's best player for the last two years and is scoring goals regularly.
You then moved to Benevento in Italy. How was that experience?
In England, I was a big ball player, but my physical fitness was probably my flaw there. Lately I've been able to correct that, so I might be referred to as a late developer. I'd tried out England, so then I thought I'd give Italy a go. I don't like putting things down, but State soccer in Australia that I've played recently doesn't compare with what it was like in Italy. There were players who played in Serie A and B, and guys who played 300 games in Serie C, so that made it a better league. What was amazing was the stress and the mental game in Italy. A Serie C1 team would do well against most teams in the world.
You were one of the youngest members of the Joeys and Young Socceroos. How important was being selected at that young age for your confidence?
When I went to the Under 17 world cup qualifiers, I was only fifteen which was an incredible experience being one of the youngest guys. It happened again with the Under20s, when I was one of the youngest. Making the national team is amazing. I earned it three times, and it was an amazing thrill.
What was your first recollection of Melbourne Victory?
I was here when they won the bid. I made my decision to come back when the announcements were due to be made for the new A-League, which was meant to be last year. I came back in hope the new league would be announced straight away, but it happened late in November. I was rapt that Melbourne Victory got the nod, because it seems that they have the right people on board.
You must have a good working relationship with Ernie Merrick from your days at the Victorian Institute of Sport?
I had Ernie as a coach from when I was 13 years old. I've played under him for some time and it was fantastic when he got appointed. Thankfully enough, he knows what I am capable of, and hopefully I can repay him for his confidence in me.
Are you excited by the opportunity of playing with Archie Thompson?
I'm going to go as far as saying that behind Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell, Archie is one of the best Australian strikers going around. I'm not being biased, because I've always said it and will continue to say it. He's exciting, quick, scores goals, and has just about everything a good layer needs. I'm looking forward to playing with him, and hopefully he is looking forward just as much to playing with me.
If no A-League offer came about, what were your plans in 2005?
I would have given the VPL another shot with Fawkner, and would have showed the A-League clubs what they missed out on. Now that I have this chance, I want to do as well as I can, and if all goes well, I'd like to see out my career with Melbourne Victory.
Michael Ferrante Profile
Full name: Michael Ferrante
Date of birth: 28th April, 1981
Height: 171 cm
Weight: 70 kg
Preferred position: Centre midfield
Former clubs: Fawkner (VPL), Benevento (Italy), West Ham United (England), Victorian Institute of Sport
International honours: Australian under 17 (1997) and 20 (1999, 2001) representative
Most memorable match: FA Youth Cup final (9-0 aggregate win)
Match day superstitions: None
I joined Melbourne Victory because...
I want to win the A-League in front of my home Melbourne crowd.
My greatest football achievement is...
Winning the FA Youth Cup and making the bench for the West Ham first team.
If I wasn't a footballer I'd be...
I really don't know the answer to that one.
What team do you select when you play FIFA soccer games?
I usually pick Real Madrid.
What is the most you've paid for yourself in a manager game?
I can never buy myself, West Ham were always reluctant to sell me.
What did you do in the last 12 months waiting for the A-League to start?
I played Victorian Premier League for Fawkner.
What is the last football shirt you bought?
I bought a Pescara shirt in 1999.
Funniest rumour you've heard of yourself?
I can't say I've ever heard a rumour about me.
Childhood football idol?
Favourite current footballer?
What do you get inspiration from?
Music, my family and scoring goals.
Do you watch footballers' wives?
Nah, it's all false.
What message do you have for Melbourne Victory fans?
You have to come to games, simple as that!