Roy Hodgson made the point and he made it again. And again. The England manager noted the date. And he pointed out that the Premier League season does not finish until 11 May. It would be "foolish", he said, for anything to be set in stone right now.
The 30-man squad that he has named for next Wednesday's friendly against Denmark at Wembley should not be viewed as the definitive guide to the 30 that he will put forward on the eve of the World Cup finals. That squad will contain seven stand-by players; seven who, unless injuries bite, will fall at the very last. When Hodgson next names an England squad, it will be the all-or-nothing moment .
Hodgson made a final plea, as he sat in Wembley's press conference auditorium and looked down at the list of the chosen names for Denmark. "Anyone who tries to read into what I am saying could be very disappointed," Hodgson said. "Because I actually mean what I say."
And yet the hunt for clues was impossible to resist. Here was a footprint for Brazil that looked clear purely because there were so few glaring absentees. The defenders Phil Jagielka and Phil Jones were missing because of injuries and Hodgson's response was to call up Steven Caulker as cover. "Steve was not in my original list of 30," Hodgson said.
The Cardiff City centre-half can, therefore, be expected to make way, while one of the four goalkeepers named will also drop out. John Ruddy versus Fraser Forster forms part of the undercard. And so back we go to the first-choice 30.
The only omissions that caused a ripple were those of Adam Johnson and Andy Carroll of Sunderland and West Ham United respectively. Hodgson said that the former was overlooked because of the "competition we have at the moment" in wide midfield – which appeared to reinforce the sense of a defined pecking order – while, to borrow a phrase from the manager, there have been only sporadic "sightings" of Carroll since May of last year. He has made three starts for his club and has more red cards (one) than goals (nil). Carroll has much to do in the rest of the season to stake a claim ahead of Rickie Lambert for the big-man-up-front place.
Who misses out from the 30 that includes Jagielka and Jones and excludes Caulker and a goalkeeper? It was the obvious question and, if it is one that Hodgson can sleep on for now, he made it plain that it would disturb him.
"It wasn't easy before Euro 2012 and this time it is going to be even harder," he said. "This time, I will have to disappoint some people I have worked with [in qualification] and who have maybe done a good job for me and the team. We have got more than 23 players who deserve a chance to play for England at the World Cup."
Hodgson said he would not "be taking more than four centre-backs to Brazil" and, in the next breath, he name-checked Jagielka, Gary Cahill, Jones and Chris Smalling. "They are our four," Hodgson said. Would he take one less?
The bigger question concerned the full-backs, with Smalling's and even Jones' ability to cover at right-back giving Hodgson the option of preferring another midfielder or striker to a second right-back. If the now-fit Glen Johnson seems the first-choice, then Kyle Walker could be nervy.
The debate over left-back issue has been intensified by Hodgson's call-up of Southampton's Luke Shaw for the Denmark game. With Leighton Baines one of the squad's certainties, Hodgson effectively faces a choice between Ashley Cole and Shaw.
Cole is England's most capped tournament player; he has played in the past 22 ties, going back to the 2002 World Cup, and has been on the field for all but 16 minutes. Shaw stands to make his international debut against Denmark and, though Cole has lost his Chelsea place to César Azpilicueta, it is fair to say it would be a massive gamble for Hodgson to overlook him. Hodgson strikes nobody as a gambler.
It is in midfield where the real intrigue lies and, most probably, where the big-name casualty could come. Hodgson talked up Tom Cleverley although, given his form this season in a struggling Manchester United team, he appears to be vulnerable, while the manager will surely omit one of the wingers Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Raheem Sterling and Andros Townsend. Sterling is back in the squad and is a player that Hodgson knows from his time in charge at Liverpool.
Yet one or two other midfielders must also go. Adam Lallana's ability to play off the left is among his selling points but it is congested in the middle, where Michael Carrick, Ross Barkley, Jordan Henderson and, whisper it, Frank Lampard, are in competition. Then there is James Milner. Hodgson loves James Milner.
"There are a lot of midfield players that are quality midfield players and all will be under some sort of pressure," Hodgson said. "They are under the pressure of competition and they have got to accept that. They will have to convince me."
Hodgson's options up front look clearer, with Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck looking assured of their places, which leaves Lambert looking to fend off Carroll, and both Jay Rodriguez and Jermain Defoe retaining hope.
It might have been troubling for Defoe to hear Hodgson's view of Major League Soccer; Defoe is poised to swap Tottenham Hotspur for Toronto next Friday. "You can't deny, of course, that playing for Toronto can't be put on a par with playing in the Premier League," Hodgson said.
The coming weeks will bring drama and Hodgson does not want injuries to make any decisions for him. The picture, though, has taken shape.