FORMER Leeds United captain and England international Trevor Cherry is urging the Three Lions to keep their cool against Uruguay in Thursday’s crunch World Cup clash - and is praying for a strong referee in charge.
England lock horns with their South American rivals in Sao Paulo on Thursday evening, mindful that defeat will end their prospects of World Cup progression and see them bow out of the group stages for the first time since 1958.
The stakes are also massively high for Uruguay following their shock defeat to Costa Rica in their opening Group D game - with Thursday’s clash one they also dare not lose.
The man in charge is Spain’s Carlos Velasco Carballo, who red-carded Germany’s Bastian Schweinsteiger during Bayern Munich’s Champions League quarter-final first-leg against Manchester United at Old Trafford in April.
Cherry hopes he will maintain control, with memories of his own experiences against South American opposition firmly in his own mind.
The classy defender became just the third England player to be seen off in an international after being red-carded in the friendly clash with Argentina in Buenos Aires’ Estadio La Bombonera in June 1977.
He was dismissed following a clash with home player Daniel Bertoni, who also received his marching orders after breaking two of Cherry’s teeth after punching him in the encounter.
Cherry was later exonerated for his part in the incident which led to his dismissal, but knows only too well from first-hand experience about the tactics Americas opponents can employ on occasions, especially in testing environments.
Now 66, Cherry, who captained England in a friendly against Australia in May 1980, told the Yorkshire Post: “We need a good strong referee, definitely.
“Discipline is massive and you can’t go down to ten men in that heat. Our lads seem to get sent off for little kicks and pushes, but they are a bit cleverer.
“Like the Italians, they (Uruguay) are very good at coming across people and defensively, they don’t let you go past and block you off and don’t think anything of picking up a yellow card for doing that. That’s their game, but I do think we have enough to beat them.
“They will be good at winding up people and will try and wind up Rooney, Sterling and Sturridge and they all have to keep their cool.
“They are good spoilers, aren’t they and I think they will try and intimidate our lads.”
He added: “In my time, the South American teams had a few different rules and obviously I was sent off in Argentina in a friendly. I was marking their equivalent of George Best and he didn’t like being man-marked at all.
“I did get exonerated, but do remember playing in Argentina being very hostile as we were the first team to go there since Alf Ramsey called their football team ‘animals’ in 1966 and we weren’t exactly popular.”
As the debate rages about whether Wayne Rooney should line up tomorrow evening - and more specially in what question - Cherry is adamant that the Manchester United star should revert to his preferred central position of the ‘no.10’ role, behind Daniel Sturridge.
Cherry, capped 27 times by England, added: “Personally, I hope he (Roy Hodgson) plays him up front. I am a massive fan of Rooney’s, but I think if you play a left-winger, you might as well play somebody on the left.
“I can’t understand Rooney being played on the left.
“It will be Gerrard’s last World Cup, if not Rooney’s as well and there’s an awful lot at stake. To be out by Friday would be a big blow.
“But we have got to go into it with optimism. We played well going forward against Italy, but just looked vulnerable at the back and they seemed to go through our first line of midfield too easily and there seemed to be a gap there.”