Having been toppled from the summit of Group Seven by Turkey's win over Slovakia
Exclusive: Coach Tord Grip tells TheFA.com that he's fully aware of what's required against Slovakia tonight, after Turkey went back to the top of Group Seven........there are also severe traffic problems on the M1motorway........
After a fatal accident earlier today, the M1 motorway is closed northbound between Junctions 19 and 20, and southbound, between Junction 21 and the M6.
The FA would like to warn fans travelling to the Riverside this evening that delays will be inevitable, and therefore they should give themselves as much time as possible to make the journey to the Riverside....
Having been toppled from the summit of Group Seven by Turkey's win over Slovakia on Sunday night, England are under pressure to record a win of their own tonight. Coach Tord Grip tells TheFA.com that he's fully aware of what's required and believes that England have the skill and intelligence to achieve it...
England have had three weeks of training and two friendly games to ensure that the players are ready for tonight's match - a crucial European Qualifier that takes place a month after the end of the domestic season. It has been a rigorous schedule but Tord is convinced that the hunger of the players will be a more powerful force on the night than any physical fatigue.
"It has certainly been a very long season - and until the English schedule changes we will never properly fulfil our potential - but the players are all determined to do the job against Slovakia tonight," he states.
"They are desperate to play in the big games, be it in the Champions League or the international tournaments, and they know how important this game is in terms of us getting there.
"The players are in good condition too. They had a week's break before we went to South Africa but they didn't lose their shape because they are very focused these days. This squad is full of excellent professionals."
Much of the talk in the build-up to the game has revolved around the diamond formation. With Paul Scholes pushed on and with a midfield minder to protect the back four, it seems that Sven may have unearthed the best way for England to utilise its many talents. However, Tord is uneasy when it comes to placing too much stress on formations.
"It's true that the diamond formation has worked well since we used it against Turkey but it's also true that you don't beat teams with formations," he says. "Playing 4-3-3, 4-4-2 or 5-3-2 does not win you matches. You have to beat teams with intelligence, talent and by playing together.
"Intelligence is very important because if your players have intelligence it means you can be far less prescriptive as a coach. You can ask players to make decisions themselves on the pitch and that makes you more flexible and fluid as a team.
"We want players to make their own decisions and, in training, we encourage 'open skill'. We say to the players, here is a defender and you must make an attacking move. But we don't tell them how to do it. That's what I mean by open skill.
"Of course if an attacking player continues to make the wrong decision then you must tell them but you must give them the opportunity to try things in the first place otherwise you kill the skill.
"Ultimately, though, it comes down to the players. We can do everything in the world here," he says, pointing to the training pitch, "but, after all the practice, tactics and preparation, in the end it's the players who make the decisions on the pitch."
But does intelligence mean something different on the football pitch as opposed to off it?
"There may be two types of intelligence - footballing and human - but I think that the best players are intelligent in both ways," explains Tord. "We have a group of intelligent and sensible players with England. I prefer not to name specific names, but I believe we have a number."
I push him, and mention the case of Michael Owen - a 23 year-old who speaks and thinks with an intelligence and experience way beyond his years.
"Yes," he smiles. "That's true. Michael has been playing top football for six years already. And for practically all of that time he has also had to learn to deal with cameras pointing at him and journalists wanting to talk to him. He has learned from that and trained himself.
"And, to add to that, he has the talent too! I have always said that you need three things to make it as a top footballer: talent, attitude and training."
All those qualities will need to come to the fore if England are to get the right result against Slovakia tonight and Tord is confident they will.
"There is pressure because people expect us to win but we also have to expect ourselves to win, even without some of our regular players," he admits.
"I certainly won't say it will be easy - we know it won't - but everyone knows that we can't afford to slip. I don't think we will."
Tord Grip was talking to Daniel Freedman
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