After all the talk, preparation and predictions, tonight the football will do th
After all the talk, preparation and predictions, tonight the football will do the talking. The mood here in the team hotel is one of calm confidence. There has been a definite shift through the gears over the last few days in terms of the atmosphere amongst the players.
The general ambience in Liechtenstein was one of focus - getting the job done. Since then, though, as the Turkey game has got nearer, the ambition and determination of the players to rise to this, the biggest of occasions, has come very much to the fore.
You can see it in Sven too. As he said yesterday, "this is the big one" and, although he is never anything but relaxed and assured, he is clearly looking forward to the game more than any since the World Cup.
He and his coaches went to watch David Platt's Under-21 side face their Turkish counterparts at St James' Park last night and they got a first-hand view of how their Senior team are likely to play against the Three Lions this evening. Full of swift movement, jinking runs and intelligent, short passes, Turkey is a team that will need to be respected and watched at close quarters all night.
When the coaches arrived back here at Slaley Hall, they spent a good few hours thrashing out the team selection issues before finally deciding on the starting eleven. Meanwhile, upstairs, the kit men, Martin Grogan and Tom McKechnie, waited patiently for the news before they could begin the ceremonial pressing and ironing of the names and numbers.
Has Wayne Rooney (who has been exceptional in training by the way) done enough to make his first ever start? Will a change of formation be required to negate the threat of the visitors?
Those will have been the kind of questions that Sven, Tord, Brian Kidd, Sammy Lee, Dave Sexton and Ray Clemence will have been asking each other.
Those decisions have now been taken and all that is left is for the hours to come and go before that first whistle signals an end to the talking and a beginning of the action.
Before the game the players will take it easy on their bodies and set the minds to the task ahead. A late breakfast begins the day, followed by a walk around the grounds at 12pm. Then a little more rest followed by the pre-match meal and a final team meeting before the coach makes its way from the team base to the Stadium of Light later this afternoon.
From Daniel Freedman at the England Team Base in Slaley Hall.
Who will get the nod tonight? What formation will Sven opt for?
If you want to find out the answers first, log on to TheFA.com when the starting line-up will be announced exclusively one hour before kick off...
Click here for match information:
ENGLAND v TURKEY
WEDNESDAY APRIL 2nd
EURO 2004 QUALIFIER IN SUNDERLAND