There may well be another appeal for respect for Andorra this morning when Steve McClaren addresses the media on the eve of his first competitive game as England manager and, like a seasoned veteran, insists there are no easy games in international football. Privately, however, he will be mightily relieved that the first defensive problems of his reign have occurred against a team ranked 132nd in the world and with a mere three wins to their name.
McClaren, having lost Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher to injury last week, is also expected to be without Rio Ferdinand for tomorrow European Championship qualifier due to the toe problem sustained by the Manchester United centre-half at Watford on Saturday. Though fears he had fallen victim to the curse of the metatarsal proved unfounded, Ferdinand again sat out training in Manchester last night and is unlikely to be risked before the more problematic trip to Macedonia next week.
At the start of England's training session at Old Trafford a jovial Wes Brown ran out alongside John Terry. Ferdinand's United colleague also partnered the England captain in the session and is favourite to play, rather than Tottenham's uncapped defender Michael Dawson. Brown's promotion will represent his first competitive start for England, though his 10th cap after an injury-plagued career. The 26-year-old's last cap came in the friendly defeat of the United States in Chicago in May last year.
Replacing Neville at right-back is likely to be his younger brother Phil Neville, while Jermain Defoe should retain his place alongside Peter Crouch in attack.
If England are awarded a penalty against David Rodrigo's team, who count Belarus, Albania and Macedonia as their only competitive scalps, the onus will fall on Frank Lampard to convert despite his painful experience in the World Cup quarter-final. The Chelsea midfielder has seen his last two England spot-kicks saved, by Portugal's Ricardo and Hungary's Gabor Kiraly, but has told McClaren he is prepared to continue.
Lampard, who converted his first penalty since the World Cup for Chelsea at Blackburn on Sunday, said: "I am big enough to take the responsibility. I have taken and scored enough penalties in the past and I am confident enough to take them. You would be inhuman not to think about what happened [against Portugal]. It is not nice to miss a penalty in a World Cup quarter-final. It is one moment of my career I am not happy with."
* The plane carrying the Wales squad from Cardiff to Prague for their Euro 2008 qualifier was forced to make an emergency landing in Bournemouth yesterday due to a cracked windscreen in the cockpit. John Toshack, the manager said: "I must admit I was a bit concerned. I expect the papers will have 'Welsh plane Dai-verted' headlines tomorrow."Reuse content