England will do talking on the pitch, says Gerrard
PODGORICA, Montenegro (AFP) –
Steven Gerrard feels Montenegro manager Branko Brnovic has played into England’s hands by seeking to create tension ahead of the World Cup qualifying showdown between the sides on Tuesday.
Montenegro will start the game in Podgorica with a two-point lead in Group H and Brnovic used his pre-game press conference to claim England were “more scared” than his side.
England manager Roy Hodgson elected not to react to Brnovic’s comments in his own media conference, but Gerrard said the 45-year-old’s antics could work in the visitors’ favour.
“I’m not really too interested in what was said in their press conference, or in ours, to be honest,” said the England captain.
“I’m interested in how the lads train and how we play once the whistle goes tomorrow (Tuesday).
“But for their manager to come out and say some of the things he’s said, I think we’ve got him right where we want him.
“They seem to be more interested in saying things and doing all the talking, whereas talking doesn’t win you football matches.”
Hodgson did respond to Brnovic’s claims that his team are over-reliant on “long passes”, suggesting it was a tag that could be attached to previous England teams, but not his.
“It seems to me sometimes that people like to make a comment that may have been more relevant in the past than it is today, but we have nothing to defend (ourselves against) in that respect,” Hodgson said.
“We play the football we play and we think it’s a good football, so I don’t really care whether people want to label it short-ball or long-ball.”
Tuesday’s game will be Hodgson’s 15th at the England helm since he replaced Fabio Capello shortly before the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine last year.
Having seen his side beat Brazil in a friendly in February and then trounce San Marino 8-0 on Friday, Hodgson believes his ideas are beginning to take hold.
“An international team takes a bit of time to mould together,” he said.
“I get the feeling that as a group we’re moulding better together the more we play and the more we have a chance to work together.”
Gerrard was effusive in his praise of Hodgson’s impact, heralding the influence he has had both in terms of the spirit within the England camp and the level of performance on the pitch.
Asked to explain the happy atmosphere that appears to emanate from the squad, Gerrard said: “I think that’s down to the manager and the staff, creating that atmosphere for us to work in.
“He’s shown the players a lot of respect, given us a lot of free time, treated us like adults. The players are happy, training’s good.
“We’re certainly not hiding anything – there are no cliques or secret fall-outs that I can tell you about.”
Gerrard also believes that England have become more canny international operators since their defeat on penalties by Italy in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012.
“We spoke about keeping the ball and possession, and we certainly weren’t good enough in possession against Italy,” said the Liverpool midfielder.
“We never kept the ball for long enough periods in that game. Hence the reason why… there was an attack on our goal quite often.
“When you come up against the top sides at this level, you need to keep the ball better. You need to be better in possession and keep it away from the opposition and keep them away from your goal for as long as possible.
“I think our possession stats since that game have certainly improved. It feels that way anyway.
“But we won’t be where we want to be under this manager until we get to a tournament and beat one of the top sides in the last eight.”