Ferguson questions Roberts T-shirt stance


ALEX FERGUSON has condemned Jason Roberts for refusing to wear a Kick It Out T-shirt during the weekend’s Premier League games, with the Scot claiming the Reading striker is “trying to put himself on a different pedestal to everyone else”.

Roberts believes that football’s most prominent anti-racism body has not done enough to alleviate the problem in the wake of the Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra and John Terry-Anton Ferdinand affairs.

Ferguson, who confirmed all his players, including Rio Ferdinand, will wear the T-shirts for today’s visit of Stoke City during what is the campaigning body’s annual week of action, said: “I have to disagree with Jason Roberts, he is making the wrong point. Everyone should be united, all the players in the country wearing the warm-up tops. I do not know what point he is trying to make or trying to put himself on a different pedestal to everyone else. He really should be supporting all the rest of the players who are doing something. If you are doing something then everyone who believes in it should do it together.

“Yes, all my players will wear it. I think all the players will be wearing it. I only heard that Jason Roberts is different. He is very different, he plays his game and is in the studio 20 minutes after it, it’s a great privilege.”

On Thursday Roberts told the BBC: “I find it hard to wear a T-shirt after what has happened in the last year. I won’t wear one. I’m totally committed to kicking racism out of football but when there’s a movement I feel represents the issue in the way that speaks for me and my colleagues, then I will happily support it. I think people feel let down . . . people don’t feel like they have been strong enough.”

Kick It Out pointed out that it “works in partnership with the game’s governing bodies, representative bodies, leagues, clubs, players and supporters to raise awareness about inequality and discrimination. We are not a decision-making organisation with power and resource as some people think, and can only work effectively in the context of these partnerships.”

For the Stoke game, Ferguson has Ashley Young back after injury. “Everyone is back from internationals fit which is a bonus,” the manager said. “Ashley Young is fit again, Chris Smalling not quite there but making progress.”

Of the challenge of Stoke, Ferguson joked: “We have the jolly green giants coming to play against us – the biggest team in Europe. You can get yourself in a tangle about it. You can’t make a terror for yourself and hopefully we can play our game and get the result that we want.” Regarding the potential return of Michael Owen, his former striker, who is now with Stoke, Ferguson joked: “Michael’s not allowed to play unless he brings ladders.”

Meanwhile, Ferguson defended Tom Cleverley, who was part of the midfield in England’s 1-1 draw in Poland on Wednesday. “I was listening to the radio coming into the training ground [on Thursday] and they were slaughtering Tom Cleverley. I said to myself: ‘I couldn’t have been watching the same game.’ Because I thought he was the one player who kept the ball moving in the team.”

In recent games Wayne Rooney has operated at the tip of a midfield diamond but Ferguson dismissed the idea he may operate more in this area as his career develops.

Ferguson also stated he will continue to use the diamond. “It is going to be difficult for me to pick a team,” he said. “Sometimes the diamond formation can work and other times I think we need width. I’m flexible about it.”

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