England head coach Roy Hodgson once again was in tub-thumping form ahead of the most important match of his entire managerial career against Poland tonight as he urged the Three Lions to go out and deliver the same bravura display that we saw from them in their 4-1 win over Montenegro on Friday.
The home side still need to record one more victory in Group H over the fourth-placed Poles at Wembley Stadium to guarantee themselves an automatic place at next summer’s World Cup finals in Brazil. If not they will be facing the lottery of a two-legged playoff tie next month.
Hodgson is asked if he plans a Churchillian speech tmrw. He asks Gerrard: "I don't think I do many Churchillian speeches, do I?" SG: "No"— Oliver Kay (@OliverKayTimes) October 14, 2013
However, Hodgson was positivity personified in his final pre-match press conference on Sky Sports News on Monday, claiming that he and his players “had not even discussed the playoffs” in their team meetings, as the 66-year-old once again sought to set the right tone for Tuesday evening’s showdown.
"It won't be my best night's sleep ahead of this game because at the moment all of my waking thoughts are around England versus Poland," he said in the Guardian.
"On the other hand I have great faith and trust in the players. I don't think I could be putting a stronger bunch of players, a more confident bunch of players, on to the field. But football is not a science and you worry something untoward might happen.
"There's also a large element of excitement and anticipation. This group of players give me a lot of inspiration. I've been inspired by the training sessions we've been doing in the camp and the performance last Friday. We can do no more. We've prepared, we're ready. Bring the game on."
The former Inter Milan, Fulham, Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion boss had used the same tactics successfully going into Friday night’s penultimate qualifier at Wembley against the third-in-the-table Montenegrins, a nation do not forget that England had failed to beat in any of their previous three competitive meetings.
But the manager had delivered such a rousing and confident message in his briefing to the press on Thursday in the buildup to that equally important fixture that you cannot help but think it must have played a significant part in what turned out to be England’s most convincing and eye-catching performance of the whole campaign.
Hodgson gives players the hairdryer treatment and says he's warned against complacency until he's 'blue in the face' http://t.co/gbIOAOVc0o— John Cross (@johncrossmirror) October 14, 2013
And really it is now just a case of same again please from captain Steven Gerrard and Co against a Poland side travelling to the home of football with nothing but pride to play for, which was most certainly not the case the last time England lost to the Eastern Europeans at Wembley 40 years ago.
Hodgson sent his players out with exactly the right attacking mentality against Montenegro on Friday in what was also, like tonight, a must-win fixture, epitomised by the man-of-the-match display from winger Andros Townsend on the Tottenham Hotspur youngster’s England debut, even if it was the second half before the home side eventually made the key breakthrough.
However now, against what is generally regarded as being a more technically accomplished outfit containing the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Jakub Blaszczykowski et al, the dilemma facing the England coach is whether to be quite as adventurous with so much at stake.
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Hodgson was ultimately vindicated in his brave decision to drop Jack Wilshere in favour of midfield player Frank Lampard by the resounding scoreline on Friday evening, but he may decide to return to Conservative Roy again against the Poles by reintroducing Michael Carrick’s more measured approach in place of the Chelsea veteran.
Either way, though, the manager was right in his assessment last week that he thought England were now in a significantly better place than when he first took on the role following Fabio Capello’s departure in May 2012.
But to prove those sentiments right, he knows his side must now deliver one more quality performance to see England over the line and into their fifth consecutive appearance at the World Cup finals.