MY FIVE-POINT PLAN ON HOW TO MAKE A MARK ON WORLD STAGE
All players need to be well drilled on the team’s tactics and formation requirements. At Euro 2016, we didn’t have a very good plan against Iceland. They allowed us possession, then dominated set-pieces and picked up the second ball. We didn’t react to an obvious tactic and this time we must be better prepared. To achieve anything you need game intelligence. England must be armed with a plan so everyone knows their responsibility. Should the game change, substitutes must know their roles. As in 1990 and ’96 we are favouring three at the back. If they need to adjust to four, then it’s important such a change is fluid and we don’t lose momentum. What I like is Gareth using players that have a sharp interchange of passing, like Marcus Rashford, Dele Alli and Raheem Sterling, which makes our attacking play brighter and unpredictable for the opposition.
A GAMEPLAN is no use without teamwork. Whether you press or drop off, it’s really important that you do it together. It’s no good a centre forward closing down a defender if the next man doesn’t push in behind to cut off a pass. likewise if we drop off and need to keep the ball, we do it as a unit. Away from the pitch, it’s crucial the players do things together to help form a strong bond. Whether it’s playing cards — at Manchester United even Sir Alex Ferguson would join in — or having a laugh watching a film. Gareth may allow a bit of golf to increase competitive spirit or even a quiz. little things can help improve the dynamics of the group.
Having a fit squad and avoiding injuries is a big aspect of a tournament. Fitness levels can help you get a late goal — or conversely, make you give one away. We have a young squad and most of the players have pace and plenty of energy. premier league players do have a more arduous season than players from Spain, for example, but we mustn’t let that argument creep in to our mentality. In 1986, playing at altitude in 100-degree heat against Morocco stressed us more than it did them but in Russia we shouldn’t be facing such issues.
IF you don’t have any confidence you may as well go home. Fortunately, when I played, I also had confidence in those around me and that’s equally important. You know your mate won’t let you down. You’ve got to go into a World Cup wanting to enjoy testing yourself against the very best. Express yourself and show you deserve to be there. Our squad may be young but they can look at each other and say ‘we play in one of the most competitive leagues in the world and nearly all of us have played Champions league football against some of the best around’. The flipside is that they don’t get carried away. By all means be fired up, but from experience, good players such as Diego Maradona expected you to come at them quickly and they’d be clever enough to use it against you. Keep your head and a sensible respect for the opposition — but don’t show any fear.
I AM a firm believer in making your own luck but every side needs that bit of good fortune. Mistakes determine most games. You only have to look at what happened to liverpool’s loris Karius in the Champions league final. It is bad luck but could it also be a lack of concentration or due to a bang to his head? Cut out mistakes and you have a chance. Of course we all have our superstitions too. I liked to wear the no 7 and put my shirt on last. It was nothing compared to peter Shilton though. He used to have a routine for how his kit was laid out, when he looked in the mirror and even brushing his hair. We’d mess up his clothes when he went to check the pitch before kick-off to lighten the mood. Superstition can move in mysterious ways.