Anton faces tough competition to start for Sunderland at Liverpool

FEE AGREED ... QPR agree deal with Sunderland for defender Anton Ferdinand.

FEE AGREED ... QPR agree deal with Sunderland for defender Anton Ferdinand.

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ANTON Ferdinand insists brother Rio didn’t need to tell him twice about the fight for first-team football at Sunderland this season.

Sunderland face a dress rehearsal tomorrow for the start of the Premier League campaign when they face their final pre-season friendly at SPL outfit Hibernian.

It offers a last opportunity for those at Steve Bruce’s disposal to impress sufficiently to earn a starting spot at Liverpool seven days later.

Competition is particularly fierce in defence after Wes Brown and John O’Shea each ended more than a decade of service at Manchester United to sign for the Black Cats.

Although a persistent hamstring problem rules O’Shea out of tomorrow’s game and the trip to Anfield, both are expected to be regulars this season.

That leaves the likes of centre-half Ferdinand facing a scrap to feature, although the 26-year-old believes no-one at the back can afford to let their standards drop.

Ferdinand told SportMail: “When you’ve got players like Wes and Sheasy coming into the squad, you’ve got to be on your toes. I’ve watched them enough myself to know about them.

“My brother has said what good lads they are and how much I’ll learn off them by training with them every day.

“He’s right, I’ve seen that already.

“Wes doesn’t break sweat but that’s the sign of a quality defender.A lot of the best defenders in the world are like that. When he needs to be upright or ready, he’s ready for the fight.

“There is a lot of competition but that’s great for Sunderland football club.

“If you’re not playing well, you’re not going to play the next week.

“But that’s how it should be at Premier League clubs.”

Full story in Friday’s Mail