"Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them," Joseph Heller wrote in Catch 22. Roy Hodgson, schooled in the work of the American author, is adamant England can avoid such a fate.
Hodgson's side play Montenegro on Friday and Poland the folowing Tuesday knowing that two victories at Wembley are required to assure safe passage to the World Cup in Brazil next year. England's lead at the top of Group H is a mere point but, as his first qualification campaign in charge of the national side reaches its denouement, Hodgson's belief of success remains unwavering.
"Everyone knows today that in football either every team is mediocre or no team is mediocre. We could probably name three or four teams at the moment that are exceptional at international level: Brazil would be one, Germany, whom I saw in 2006 were in the doldrums but since that time have worked very hard, they've made themselves strong. Holland and Italy have had good campaigns," said Hodgson.
"Basically outside of that you could describe every team as a pretty ordinary team but we know it's hard to beat these teams, it really is. We know we have to be at our best … but we've got to do it."
For England it has been a campaign without defeat but also without fireworks. Away draws in Podgorica and Warsaw, having led in both games only to concede late on, mean there is no celebratory send-off to be enjoyed just yet.
Some have compared the situation to that six years ago when England, then under Steve McClaren, required a draw at home in their final qualifier against Croatia to progress to Euro 2008. A 3-2 home defeat meant England missed a major tournament for the first time in 14 years and the departure of McClaren soon followed, but Hodgson says failure has not crossed his mind.
"What's the point? What's the point of me thinking about those things? I don't think we're going to lose the game. I think we're going to qualify, that's what I think about," he said.
"I'm not interested in comparisonsfull stop. You could make other comparisons if you wanted, to the game that Bryan Robson told me about when they had to go to Poland and get a draw [in 1989]to qualify. They drew 0-0 and were totally outplayed according to Robson and needed Peter Shilton's brilliance in goal to qualify.
"You could draw a comparison to the game in Italy [in 1997] when Glenn Hoddle was there. Choose what you want, it will depend. If people want to see it positively they will compare it with Hoddle and Robson, if they want to compare it negatively they will compare it with McClaren."
Hodgson is expected to put his faith in experience for the crucial double-header. He is without the pace of Theo Walcott or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain but Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole, all with more than 100 caps to their name, should feature. Wayne Rooney, Jack Wilshere and Joe Hart are also expected to start.
Save a spate of injuries this weekend, something Hodgson concedes that he does fear, England's starting XI will appear in stark contrast to the one named for the goalless draw in Ukraine last month.
Experience, Hodgson says, will be a vital commodity in both matches but he rejected the claim that the players will be burdened with the weight of a nation's expectation at Wembley.
"I make no bones that this is a game for the experienced players, the players who are capable of accepting that responsibility," he said. "That doesn't mean to say that the younger players we've got couldn't play or make an appearance. But certainly they're not the ones who should be asked to really take responsibility for the result. The responsibility is going to be on my shoulders and the experienced players and we can't deny that responsibility of that type does weigh on players.
"Our record at Wembley I don't think is that bad, so let's hope we can continue it. But there will be plenty of adrenaline flying before the game, there's no doubt about that, with 90,000 people right behind us expecting us to go out and win, that's a great occasion, I think. You can be worried about it or you can embrace it and I think the players will embrace it.
"As an England team we think we deserve to be in Brazil. We've got to win these two matches, so it's a very, very important time."
England have taken qualification to the wire on a number of occasions in recent years. Paul Ince drenched in blood against Italy in 1997 and David Beckham celebrating at Old Trafford in 2001 after scoring against Greece are images that will forever be etched in the memories of supporters.
"I don't think players appreciate Churchillian speeches these days," Hodgson said when asked how he will approach both games in the dressing room. "Tub-thumping is not necessary. Contrary to popular belief, people do care and the players do really care about playing for England and getting to Brazil.
"The players have their own way of preparing. I saw it before the two games against Moldova and Ukraine – there's a concentration in that dressing room and a determination to do the job and do it properly. I think that's what I'm going to see in these next two games. So it won't be tub thumping, it won't be screaming.
"I'll never forget playing a game with Neuchâtel in a small stadium, with extra stands put up to get the 16,000 in. The noise and aggression from the other team had to be heard to be believed. 'Come on, let's get in there!' All of that kind of stuff, which you expect and I remember from my non-league days.
"And these Swiss players just stood there, the quietest team in the world. But it didn't stop us winning 5-1. So I've never forgotten. Sometimes I think the screamers and the shouters – I wonder who they're shouting for? Because the desire has got to come from within you."