Sam Allardyce knows that nerves will hit him as he prepares to lead England into battle for the first time, but is relying on his players to settle him in Slovakia.
Allardyce will fulfil a life’s ambition by managing the Three Lions in Sunday’s World Cup qualifier at Trnava’s City Arena and he admits he may be affected by a touch of anxiety as he makes his final preparations.
But at 61 years old and with 25 years of touchline experience in the bank he expects to be ready for action as soon as the whistle blows and the team take over.
“I think there’ll be nerves, yeah,” he said on the eve of the biggest match of his career.
“I think in every new job you get you’re nervous. But you’re hoping the players will do the talking for you, that when they walk over that white line they’ll deliver what we all want and that’s the victory.
“I’ll be very nervous in the early part, the build-up, but once the game starts that leaves me and the focus on the match comes in. I don’t hear the crowd around me, I just see how team is doing and what I need to communicate.”
Where can you see the game?
The match, taking place at the Stadion Antona Malatinskeho in Slovakia. Kick-off is at 5pm UK time today (Sunday, September 4) and will be broadcast live on ITV and ITV HD.
Joe Hart, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Gary Cahill, Danny Rose, Eric Dier, Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling, Wayne Rooney, Adam Lallana, Harry Kane.
Slovakia 0-0 England (Euro 2016)
England 4-0 Slovakia (International Match, 2009
England 2-1 Slovakia (Euro 2004 qualifying, 2003)
Slovakia 1-2 England (Euro 2004 qualifying, 2002)
No major shocks in the starting XI...
Allardyce removed some of the speculation and intrigue around his first game in charge by naming his starting XI a full 48 hours early.
There were no major shocks, with every one of the team part of Roy Hodgson’s unsuccessful Euro 2016 squad and eight of the side that crashed out to Iceland retained.
Dele Alli was perhaps most unfortunate to miss the cut, a victim of captain Wayne Rooney’s selection in his preferred number 10 role.
Allardyce did not name names but did suggest he had wrestled with the composition.
“There was deliberation on everybody,” he said.
“That’s the exciting thing for me, the quality of players this week, the energy of the players, the camaraderie. It’s been very good for me to see.
“So the selection process was quite a difficult one.”
Former Barnsley man Stones gets his chance...
Manchester City’s John Stones is an eye-catching selection at the heart of defence, where he replaces Chris Smalling.
He has long been seen as a future mainstay of the national side but did not manage a minute in France and is set for only his second competitive start.
There is much excitement about the £47.5million man’s ability to bring the ball from defence in the style of Rio Ferdinand but, while Allardyce shares in that, the priority remains keeping the back door shut.
“Nobody is going to stop John Stones playing from the back...but every centre-half is judged on his defending first and foremost. If anybody tells you different they’re not telling the truth,” he said.
“John plays as a defender and he can use his ability when we’re in possession. He’s got a dual role and he can be creative when we’ve got ball.
“If he can come out from the back and make a killer pass or help with an assist we will cover that by other players filling in.”
Referring to his up-and-down season at Everton last year, during which he was dropped by Roberto Martinez, Allardyce said: “He’s a young man who had a great time, then a little bit of a problem.
“Now he’s got a big move and is looking very comfortable again.
“I just hope for all that experience in such a short period of time he’s now a better player then he was a couple of years ago. Certainly he’s a very big talent.”
Faith in Number One Joe Hart...
Allardyce also has no concerns about Joe Hart’s state of mind.
The absence of injured duo Fraser Forster and Jack Butland means his starting spot was never in doubt, but a rollercoaster beginning to the season - during which he has been turfed out of Manchester City and hastily signed on loan by Serie A side Torino - has been less than ideal.
“He missed one day (of training),” said Allardyce.
“The president of Torino sent a plane over for him, picked him up, dropped him off, gave him a medical, sent him back.
“The good thing is it’s sorted Joe’s future out . The big thing for me is his future’s sorted. He’s playing in Italy for this year. That’s got his focus back on England and that’s the main thing.”