England will not settle for draw against Montenegro insists Gary Neville
Sides meet in World Cup qualifier later this month
Wednesday 13 March 2013
Gary Neville insists England will not adopt the Italian mentality of grinding out a draw when they head to Montenegro later this month.
Manager Roy Hodgson is due to unveil his squad tomorrow for a World Cup double-header with San Marino and Montenegro, which will do so much to shape England's hopes of reaching Brazil.
The major focus will be on whether Rio Ferdinand gets a recall given Phil Jagielka has been ruled out with an ankle injury, Joleon Lescott has started just one game of the last four for Manchester City, Chris Smalling was reduced to Under-21 duty at Manchester United on Monday and Gary Cahill has been struggling for form at Chelsea.
It would represent a major climbdown for Hodgson to select Ferdinand, having continually given the impression he wanted to "move on" from the 34-year-old.
Nevertheless, the obvious alternatives, Tottenham duo Michael Dawson and Steven Caulker, lack Ferdinand's experience, which could be vital in Podgorica against a dangerous Montenegro outfit that represent the greatest danger to England's hopes of automatic qualification.
Although they presently trail Montenegro in Group H, a draw would represent a positive return given the fixtures which remain.
But speaking on his return to old club Bury Juniors FC as part of the FA Community Awards 2013 presented by McDonald's, nominations for which can now be made at http://www.mcdonalds.co.uk/kickstart, Neville ruled that attitude out.
"I have never looked at any game, either for Manchester United or England, and said I will play for a draw - and I never will," said Neville, who was appointed as Hodgson's assistant prior to Euro 2012.
"That is not the English mentality. We are not Italians, who can grind things out and be cagey for an entire game.
"We want to be on the front foot. Our mentality must always be to try and win."
If Hodgson's reasoning behind whatever decision he makes with Ferdinand will be first on the agenda when he faces the media tomorrow following the squad announcement, Wayne Rooney's name will not be far behind.
Left out of Sir Alex Ferguson's starting line-up for Manchester United's Champions League defeat by Real Madrid last week, the 27-year-old was recalled for the FA Cup draw with Chelsea, when he also scored his 15th goal of the season.
In between, Ferguson was vehement in his claim that Rooney would not be leaving Old Trafford at the end of the season.
And Neville does not believe he will either.
"Manchester United is the most incredible football club. There is always a fall-out when something goes wrong," he said.
"It is never just normal when they go out of Europe. There is always something big.
"It is only when you are on the outside you see how big the club is and the exaggeration that surrounds it.
"Wayne Rooney gets left out of one match and all of a sudden he is out of the club and people are pointing back to all sorts of historic occasions.
"I take the manager at his word. Why would Wayne Rooney want to leave? He is a big player for everybody and both of them seem to fit each other."
Scrutiny would have been on Rooney anyway given it was in the Euro 2012 qualifier in Montenegro that he got himself needlessly sent off, eventually causing him to miss the first two matches of the finals, which many felt contributed to another below-par performance at a major tournament.
The stakes are not quite as high this time, although should England get beaten they will be five points behind and realistically condemned to searching for a route to Brazil via the play-offs.
Neville accepts getting any kind of result will not be easy but, from personal experience, he knows the best way of trying to get it.
"I have watched a lot of Montenegro's games in the last couple of months and it will be a hostile atmosphere, as it always is in eastern Europe," said Neville.
"It never changes. They are really passionate about their countries. You are talking about countries who have had hostilities around there for 20-odd years. You can feel the passion. There is a fighting spirit amongst them.
"It will be the same in Montenegro.
"You have to handle the atmosphere in any away ground. It is the first thing you say; let's kill the crowd. Keep the ball and get a goal."
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