Sven's right hand man has put in the hours recently
Sven's right hand man tells TheFA.com's Daniel Freedman that he wasn't surprised by Slovakia's strength and that he's delighted to have a fit Sol Campbell back and raring to go...
Tord Grip deserves his cup of coffee. With three points in the bag from a torrid but ultimately fruitful game in Slovakia and the Macedonia match now a day away, Sven's right hand man has put in the hours recently...not that he expected it to be any other way.
"I was not surprised that it was such a difficult game," Tord says of England's opening Euro qualifier.
"It was a game that I was worried about. I knew that Slovakia had played very well against Sweden in the World Cup Qualifiers and I told Sven that, apart from our away game in Turkey which is obviously going to be very difficult, the match in Bratislava was the one that most concerned me.
"When the game started, it certainly proved that way. Slovakia were very strong in the beginning - they were a very determined team.
"Not just that but it was an awful pitch," he says, still shaking his head at the memory of the Slovakian quagmire.
"It was like ones that you would see many years ago. You certainly had to be very strong to play on it.
"When the players came back in from the warm up they were not that happy so we told them to try and pass the ball but, if they coundn't, get it forward early.
"To get three points from that game was an excellent result and I'm surprised that more has not been made of how unlike the World Cup it was in the way the game went.
"In Japan we were excellent in every first half but did not score a goal in the second half but in Slovakia it was in the second half that we got our goals.
"Someone told me it is over thirty years since England have won a competitive game which they had been losing at half-time. That is an amazing statistic. There is no doubt in my mind that it is because the players have much more energy now than they did in the summer."
One man who was certainly not lacking in energy or determination on Saturday night was Emile Heskey, something Tord is quick to acknowledge.
"With Emile's strength, it was a good pitch for him to play on," he says.
"Like all strikers, he wants to have the ball early and as much as possible. He also combined very well with Michael - they are a good couple upfront."
At the other end of the pitch, Jonathan Woodgate and Gareth Southgate got stronger the longer the game went on. Now, having beaten off the challenge of Slovakia, Saturday's centre-half pairing face an imposing threat to their places in the starting line-up in the sizeable shape of the fit-again Sol Campbell. Tord is delighted that the Gunner is now back, firing on all cylinders.
"Of course it's good to have Sol fit again," he purrs.
"He has been playing very well for Arsenal. Arsene Wenger has been very praiseworthy of him and you can see why."
Tord also believes that the big defender has added to his game under Wenger's expert tutelage. "I think his passing has improved since he's been at Arsenal," he explains.
"He can now play excellent balls with his left foot as well as with his right.
"Sometimes he is even playing passes directly through to the strikers which they can score from. That's very important because more and more now we are seeing that goals are scored on the counter-attack."
Counter-attacking is something that Tord is expecting Wednesday night's opponents might do. "I saw them play against Malta in September," he said.
"It was difficult to take too much from it as there were a lot of substitutions. They tend to play three at the back and I think they may try and flood the midfield a little to prevent us from getting space while making their attacks on the break."
The England back room staff have got hold of a tape of Saturday's match between Macedonia and Turkey and, although Wednesday's visitors ended up losing the game, they were, by all accounts impressive in the first half especially and could have easily gone a couple of goals up. Tord is certainly taking nothing for granted.
"You just never know in international football these days," he says. "Last weekend we saw Yugoslavia get a draw with Italy and Norway go to Romania and win so we know that any result is possible.
"Still," he says with a smile, "at least we will have a pitch to play on this time!"
From Daniel Freedman in Southampton
Log on tomorrow for more exclusive thoughts from Tord when we'll ask him about some of the key individuals of England's present and future - Jonathan Woodgate, Joe Cole and Paul Scholes...