Gerrard: Defeat would not be disastrous
Skipper Steven Gerrard does not believe England need to despair about their prospects if they lose their Euro 2012 opener against France tonight.
So often in the past, the Three Lions have headed into major tournaments carrying a massive weight of expectancy from those supporting back home.
Not this time. Not when they have a coach who is only 41 days into the job, four players lost to injury and Wayne Rooney suspended for the opening two games.
A point against a France team unbeaten in its last 21 games would be regarded as a significant achievement.
"It’s the first game," said Gerrard.
"It’s not the end of the world whichever way it goes.
"It is important we don’t get carried away thinking we are going to win the tournament if we win and don’t commit suicide if we lose because there will still be two games to recover."
The words are a measure of the new maturity from the England camp, much of which coach Roy Hodgson deserves immense credit for.
However, they should not be mistaken for a lack of pride.
For both Hodgson and Gerrard were bristling with indignation when it was suggested by a French journalist that England – with a single World Cup win to their name and nothing in the intervening 46 years – may question their status as a footballing power.
"You didn’t actually need to remind me," Hodgson said of England’s World Cup win.
"That has crossed my mind on one or two occasions.
"It’s a fact of life. But I think before the very good French period we could have levelled a similar accusation against them.
"It was a facetious question but there was a little element of truth in what he was saying.
"As a top nation we haven’t won as many tournaments as we should or done as well as we should.
"We all feel that weight of history and there’s nothing we can do to take it off our shoulders except make certain we embrace the tournament, that we are not afraid of it and that we believe in ourselves."
Unless there is a late shock, Danny Welbeck will take the central striking role and the wide slots will be filled by Stewart Downing and James Milner, who was able to train on Sunday evening after missing a couple of sessions with a blistered heel.
"You can’t do anything about the past. Whatever’s happened, whether it’s good or bad, has gone," said Hodgson.
"This is 90 minutes on the stage. All you can hope is that your rehearsals and preparations go well and believe the better you rehearse the better chance you have of a good performance."