Terry makes the statement of the week

Ferdinand's absence gave Chelsea tiro a chance he grabbed
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The Independent Football

There was one statement that England could have done without and, no, it was not the infamous one that emanated from their training camp last week. That one managed to irk the nation, this one was a simple fact: Turkey had never scored against England. No pressure on the defence then.

In fact there was very little pressure. Warnings may have been coming from the banks of the Bosporus, but when it came to putting words into action the home team failed miserably. A Turkey trot, you could say, for a back four that had Rio Ferdinand forcibly removed by the Manchester United player's stupidity but who last night looked like a unit who had been aching to play together for some time.

"In a weird way the team have been brought closer together," David Beckham had said, looking back on a week when the England players threatened to strike over Ferdinand's missed drugs test, and in fairness, the players matched their captain's words.

From the moment the England players linked arms round each other during the pre-match formalities there was a togetherness about them. Not, given that they are professional footballers, during the National Anthem of course - only the two Davids, James and Beckham, appeared to know the words - but there was a unity of purpose.

Quiet determination oozed out of men who had an urgent need to demonstrate their eagerness to play for their country, and in Gary Neville, who has been fingered as the team's chief shop steward, the seriousness of the situation seemed so grave he could do nothing but stare gloomily at the ground. Only a man who had been told he had to watch Iain Duncan Smith's keynote speech at the Conservative Party conference again could have looked more downcast.

Once the whistle went, however, the mood was upbeat. For the first 15 minutes the England team could have been 10 men waiting for Rio to remember his way out of the dressing room, such was the lack of threat from the home side. And even when the Turks' short passing did get them near the English penalty area, those who had spent the week defending the forgetful showed they had not forgotten to defend.

A lot of the credit for that could be given to Nicky Butt, who never tired of volunteering his body to fill the breaches as the Turks swarmed forward. His busy blocking meant John Terry and Sol Campbell rarely had anyone running at them and the twin peaks of England's central defence could spend most of the night dealing with long crosses, which are not just bread and butter for them but a helping of jam too.

The best compliment to Terry was that Ferdinand was not missed. The 22-year-old Chelsea centre-back may not be as comfortable on the ball as the man he replaced but arguably he is a better defender and in Istanbul, where England needed only a draw to ensure their qualification for Euro 2004, that was what was required.

He is a brave player who is not afraid to put himself where angels would fear to head, and that was demonstrated in the 69th minute, when a cross from the right appeared to be dropping for Hakan Sukur. Turkey's all-time top scorer braced himself to score, only for Terry to stretch and just get a touch away for a corner.

It was not a moment in isolation. Campbell and Terry spent an evening blocking and tackling and as a consequence Turkey hardly ever threatened to end a blank against England that now extends to 10 matches. If you had to be critical of Terry, only once was he seriously exposed, when Sergen Yalcin slipped between him and Neville to get in a header after 42 minutes. James was on hand to make a save.

It was a rare lapse in an England performance that spoke for their concentration after seven days of distraction. Even when Beckham missed a penalty, it was the Turks and Alpay who reacted badly.

All week the England squad have faced vilification for putting their and Ferdinand's problems ahead of the national interest. Last night their defence was just that. Their best defence.