Roy Hodgson has issued a rallying cry that England would meet the public expectation that they should reach the World Cup finals next summer, as they prepare for the first of their final two qualifiers against Montenegro – and added he would make no excuses in the event of failure.
The England manager faces Montenegro with some big selection calls to make. He is expected to find room in his team for the Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge who has eight goals in nine games this season, but there are doubts over whether Jack Wilshere will get the nod to play in midfield ahead of Frank Lampard.
Hodgson said: "It's a big responsibility, taking on the role as manager of an England team. We are England, we are one of the big nations and we're expected to qualify for World Cups and European Championships. If that doesn't happen, you'll get criticism. If you're wise, you realise there'll be criticism during qualifying as well.
"I suppose, as a football coach, you might like [the issue of] whether the team is preparing well or developing well being taken into account, but we all realise that England expects. They expect us to play well in these two games, win them and reach the World Cup. That's what we're going to be doing our level best to do."
A win on Friday and against Poland on Tuesday would ensure England qualify as winners of Group H. They could feasibly qualify by beating Montenegro and drawing with Poland; should Poland beat Ukraine in Kharkiv. Second place in the group would mean England go into the play-offs next month for the remaining spots.
"I don't think we've made excuses anyway," Hodgson added. "I would be saddened to think my time as national coach has been riddled with excuses. We've taken responsibility all along. We're not looking for excuses. We're looking to play the game.
"We're ready for it. We believe in ourselves, trust in each other, we have the right determination and motivation. What more can I say to describe where we are? You can look at scenarios, winning 5-0 each game and playing great football, or the Doomsday scenarios. But we'll take each game as it comes."Reuse content