Roy Hodgson has issued his most rousing rallying cry since taking over as manager of the national team by insisting his England players "will deliver" qualification for the World Cup in Brazil over the next five days.
England know victories in their final two group games, against Montenegro on Friday and Poland next Tuesday, will secure Group H and automatic passage to next summer's tournament after a qualifying campaign that has rather stuttered towards its conclusion. Hodgson conceded his side have yet to produce an eye-catching result in the section, having failed to beat any side other than Moldova and San Marino, but he retains an unswerving faith in a near full-strength squad in the build-up to the two fixtures which may yet serve to define his tenure.
"Bring the game on," said Hodgson. "Really, this game can't come quickly enough. We're ready for it. We believe in ourselves, we trust in each other. We have the right determination, the right motivation. We're looking at one game. We'll get out and win that. And when we've won that, we'll look at the next one. And we'll be equally determined to win that one, too. It's Wembley, we are England, we have good players, and I believe the players will deliver.
"We haven't had a marquee result. The one we did have was the friendly against Brazil at home [which was won 2-1 in February], or maybe the draw away [in June], but you can't have a marquee result in a friendly. But if I compare how I feel about the team today compared to 18 months ago, just before the Euros, I think we're a long way forward on that. There are so many exciting younger talents now who will stand us in good stead further on. These two games would be a perfect opportunity to prove that and maybe improve the mood somewhat.
"People do doubt sometimes, and can quote the statistics: you haven't beaten the Ukraine, you only drew in Poland … This will give us an opportunity to put that right. I know the players are ready to do that. They're determined to do that. We all realise that England expects. They expect us to play well in these two games, win them, and get to the World Cup. We are England, we are one of the big nations and we're expected to qualify for World Cups and European Championships. The players will not shirk their responsibility. None of us will."
Hodgson spoke of striking a "balance" in his selection for a game in which England will anticipate hogging possession against the former group leaders. Both the manager and his captain, Steven Gerrard, betrayed genuine excitement at the prospect of Wayne Rooney linking with Daniel Sturridge in attack, with the pair having impressed together all week in training.
James Milner is expected to play on the right, with Hodgson considering pairing Gerrard with Frank Lampard in an experienced central midfield – with Michael Carrick an alternative option – leaving Jack Wilshere most likely among the substitutes.
The Arsenal player has been playing on the left in recent weeks for the Premier League leaders, with Hodgson having admitted he may have to "break some hearts" when he informs those players who will not start at a team meeting morning. Regardless, having lost only Ashley Cole through injury since naming his squad last week, he is convinced the team he sends out against a country ranked 27 in the world – albeit one England have never beaten in a competitive fixture – but who arrive at a sold out Wembley severely depleted by injuries to key personnel, will have enough to prevail.
"It's been one of the hardest selection weeks I've had, with so many senior players available and the younger ones knocking on the door for a starting place, but I believe in the players, I trust the players," he added. "You can use statistics how you want to use them. We've played some big games outside this qualifying group: we've played Italy away, Sweden away, Norway away, Belgium at home, Brazil twice, and home nations in difficult matches. I've seen the players step up to the plate and do well. This time we're even stronger on paper than we've been for a while. I know how determined the players are to do the job, making certain we step out and perform, we deliver. I have every reason to trust and believe them. In the time I've worked with them, they've never given me reason to doubt. Within the camp, we are convinced we are a good team.
"It's a big responsibility, taking on the role as manager of an England team. But this has been a great week so far. The training sessions lift me. The quality of the training sessions gives me an enormous lift. Quite frankly, I take a normal approach: two great games, two good games to play. I do believe in the team, believe in ourselves and everything we're doing, I have every confidence in them. I think it can be a very good few days ahead, and that's what I'm anticipating."