Although Jamie Redknapp was missing, Paul Gascoigne limping and Tony Adams and Darren Eadie also carrying knocks, Glenn Hoddle's mood was positive as he surveyed the many youthful faces around him.
In the aftermath of Saturday's 2-1 win over South Africa, Hoddle yesterday admitted that it was the promise of youth which persuaded him to accept the post of England coach.
Hoddle may have brought back Ian Wright and Martin Keown, but the general trend of his reign is to back young players. On Saturday, Paul Scholes became Hoddle's fifth debutant following David Beckham, Andy Hinchcliffe, David James and Nicky Butt. Only Hinchcliffe does not come into the category of young buck, and he was called up through injuries to do a specific job and played well enough to retain his place until being injured himself.
There would have been more young players but Terry Venables had already capped Sol Campbell, Robbie Fowler, Phil and Gary Neville, Nick Barmby and Redknapp, all of whom are 23 or under.
"I did look at what was coming through," Hoddle said, "and I felt there was not just a number of emerging players but an underbelly as well. In the under-21s and further down there is some good talent.
"It is a matter of getting them aquainted with international football, which is why matches like South Africa are so important, they are part of building the future."
Saturday's match underlined the contribution Manchester United can make, with Phil Neville, Butt, Beckham and Scholes all playing. "There is a bright future for these United players," Hoddle added. "They all have talent and when they are 24 or 25 years old they will have heads of 29, 30-year-olds because of the experience they are getting in the Champions' League and in international football.
"This is something we have lacked. When Liverpool had their super, super side, they were all men who were mature players - and not many of them were English. Scholes did very well. He showed a lot of maturity. There was a lovely ball into Wright and a lovely flick for the goal. He has got a bright future."
"He looked like he'd been there all his life, he looked very comfortable," Phil Neville said of Scholes. He added that he was not surprised Scholes had said he was not nervous because: "Everything we do at United prepares you for this. It is done in steps, from youth team to reserve team to first team to internationals.
"Things that Nobby Stiles told me at 11 were not just to prepare me for then, but for now too. They don't say at the time: `You'll make it'. They look back and say they always thought we might. The message then was that we had to work hard and we might make it. Brian Kidd used to say we had to improve a little bit every year - if we did we might make it."
Hoddle also seems bereft of nerves and he added: "The pressure of the job is perceived more by people outside. I was probably guilty of that as a club manager. I wondered who would actually want that sort of pressure.
"But when you actually do it yourself you don't look at it that way. You have to cocoon yourself away, not get distracted and not let anything distract you from your beliefs."
Looking ahead to next week, he said: "If Poland are to have any chance of qualifying second they have to win and I think that favours us. They like to keep it tight with man-for-man marking, but they will have to open it up at some stage."
Gascoigne is rated as having a 50-50 chance of playing, Adams, who has a knee problem, 40-60. England will train at Bisham today and tomorrow before flying from Luton on Thursday afternoon.
Following the loss of the striker Marek Citko with a snapped Achilles tendon, Poland have suffered a second injury setback after their defender Pavel Wojtala underwent a cartilage operation last week. He will miss Saturday's game.Reuse content