1. THE CHELSEA FACTOR
‘The most important thing you can bring to international football is success at club level. If you win the Premiership and compete well in the Champions League as Chelsea have, you take that confidence, that winning mentality, with you to England, the belief that you can mix it with the very best players at the highest level.
It shows in the Chelsea players who are in the England side – me, Lamps, Joey [Cole]. Stevie Gerrard and Jamie Carragher have brought the same thing through winning trophies with Liverpool and look at Manchester United as well. They’ve had so many players in the England set-up in recent years because they’ve done so well at club level and have then taken that form onto the international stage. That’s the secret. From a personal point of view it’s nice to have four or five Chelsea players in the squad too. Everybody mixes with each other, but when you first get into the squad you tend to keep yourself to yourself, so it’s good to have some familiar faces around. It’s important you don’t go in ranting and raving, which is difficult for me, because I’ve always been vocal, especially on the pitch. But once people get to know you better as a player and as a person, you can be yourself more and stamp your personality on the squad.’
2. THE CASE FOR THE DEFENCE
‘The manager’s very fortunate to have so many good centre-backs to choose from. As well as Jamie and me, you’ve got Rio at Man United, Sol Campbell at Arsenal and Ledley King is playing well every week for Spurs. Not forgetting Jonathan Woodgate. Not only that but we’re all playing for the top five clubs in the Premiership and most of us have played regularly in the Champions League, so the step up to international level is hardly noticeable. I’m not sure how many of us will go to Germany but Jamie can also play left-back and right-back, and Ledley can play in midfield, so versatility might come into it.
I can’t really afford to look at the others, though, because I’ll have to work hard enough just to get in the 23-man squad myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve come on bundles since Euro 2004, where I probably wouldn’t have played if it wasn’t for Rio’s ban, but I’ll never think my place in the team is secure, no matter what people say. I’ve certainly felt more comfortable and confident with each game for England, but it’s important to always have those butterflies before the team is picked, because you can’t afford to relax with so much competition for places. I’d have thought the manager will settle on a partnership a couple of games before the finals and try to get them playing together, but you never know. Until then, it will probably be down to form because there’s so little to choose between us. If I get the nod, I don’t mind who I play with. We’re all slightly different, obviously, but you just adapt automatically whoever you’re playing alongside. It’s like flicking a switch, so whoever plays will have a good understanding.’
3. OUR TIME IS NOW
‘This is as good a chance as we’ll have of winning the World Cup. If you look at our squad, we’ve got players with a lot of experience at international and Champions League level, players who’ve won a lot of trophies – and going into a major tournament like this, big-game experience is key. David Beckham, Gary Neville and Michael Owen have won 70 or 80 caps each and they’re not even very old – especially Michael Owen. That experience will help the younger players in the squad, but even our youngest player, Wayne Rooney, is pretty experienced. Some people think tiredness played a part in England going out of the last World Cup and Euro 2004. I don’t know about that, but I don’t think it will play a part this time. Michael Owen, Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell and Gary Neville have all had time off with injury; myself, Frank Lampard and Joe Cole all had a week off after Christmas; and Wayne won’t have the extra Champions League games.
You have to strike a balance between being fresh and being match fit. [Even though] Chelsea won the league before the end of the season, I’m certainly not going to ask the boss for a rest. I want to play in every game possible. Saying that, I definitely think the extra week’s break at the end of the season will be of benefit for the players. We’ll all be able to switch off from football and spend some time with our families before switching back on and preparing for the World Cup.’
4. A SEND-OFF FOR SVEN
‘How would I feel if Jose Mourinho became the next England manager?’ Ha ha!! Very surprised, because it won’t happen. Mr Eriksson is the man in charge and we’ve got a lot of respect for him and his methods, but it’s not a case of ‘doing it for Sven’ now, just because he’s leaving after the World Cup. We were already doing it for ourselves, the manager, the fans and the whole country – and nothing that happens between now and the tournament will change that. I’ve spoken to a few of the other players and they’ve said the same. England’s best two performances since winning the World Cup in 1966 – Italia 90 and Euro 96, when we got to the semi-finals – have come when everybody knows the manager is leaving after the tournament. I don’t know if that’s a coincidence or not, but what I do know is that this squad will be very well prepared – and hopefully we can go all the way.’ Terry’s last reason was given before the devastating injury to Wayne Rooney, that could see him miss the first round of the World Cup.
5. WE’VE GOT WAYNE ROONEY
‘He’s a nightmare to play against. He’s got everything you need to be a great striker: he’s quick, skilful, good in the air, a great finisher, his passing and movement are great and physically he’s a beast – very strong – so he puts himself about a bit, which is great… unless you’re the one marking him. He’s probably made a mug out of me in training a hundred times, but he does it to everyone. In his first training session he beat five players, stopped the ball, looked around, juggled it and smashed it into the goal. He got a round of applause, but that’s the standard he sets in every training session, which just goes to show how confident he is. And he showed in Portugal at Euro 2004 what a good player he is at that level, even at such a young age. Thinking back to when I was 18, I would never have been ready to play for England but he just took it all in his stride. When he’s on the pitch he doesn’t think about the occasion -nothing else matters apart from winning. Now he’s got that little bit more experience, he could really be the difference for us at the World Cup.
What will we do if he gets injured? [Puffs out his cheeks and shakes his head.] Hopefully he won’t. I don’t even wanna think about it.’