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Rio Ferdinand: Rise above the attack

“I play at centre-back  but I always make a mess of my defensive headers. Any tips on how I can improve?”
Jack Connolly, via email

Rio Ferdinand says:

“Don’t be afraid of heading the ball, first and foremost. That’s important and not as silly as it sounds – you need to commit to each header or you can get hurt.

Timing’s also key. I used to work a lot with a guy called Frank Burrows at West Ham when I was a kid.

He’d throw the ball up and I’d work on making sure I met the ball at the highest part of my jump. I did that until it became second nature.

Some defenders wait for the ball to come to them, but when you have strikers coming at you with a running start, you’re never going to win a ball if you stay on the ground.

If the ball is coming from the wing the key thing is that you don’t head it into the middle of the pitch. You want to head it either back to where it’s come from or off the pitch on the other side.

The ideal defensive header, though, is one where you get plenty of height and distance. That gives your team-mates time to regroup and get back in position.”

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For more football tips see:
Rio Ferdinand's Ultimate Defender
Sylvain Distin: Dominate your opponent
Franco Baresi: How to defend like a master
Chris Smalling: How to be the complete defender
Nemanja Vidic: Tackle any threat
Ashley Cole: How to handle every opponent