Traditionally England's Mr Reliable, Manchester United's Gary Neville tells TheF
Traditionally England's Mr Reliable, Manchester United's Gary Neville tells TheFA.com's Dan Freedman that he's back from injury and raring to go...
Having missed out on the last World Cup are you hungrier to take part in Euro 2004?
I'm desperate to get back in the England team and re-establish myself. I need to do that and, more importantly, we need to qualify before I can start thinking about Euro 2004.
I've had a frustrating time with injuries recently. Reliability is something that I've founded my game on over the years and being fit and available is a large part of that.
The injuries that I've had over the last couple of years seem to have affected England more than United because of the timing. It's a shame because if I'd managed to stay injury-free I could have something like 75 caps for my country by now.
At the same time though, you've got to be pragmatic about injuries. I got my chance with England in the first place due to injuries to Rob Jones and Paul Parker so you just have to accept it when it happens to you too.
We've got a job on to qualify for Euro 2004 but I am so keen to be fit because it's such an exciting time for the squad and the country as a whole.
Who do you see as the favourites for Euro 2004 and where do England figure?
You've got the usual suspects really. I'd say that Italy, Germany and France are the top tier. They've got the best record of winning tournaments so you have to put them forward as favourites again.
Underneath them are the pretenders. Teams like Portugal, Spain, England, and Holland who undoubtedly have the talent and the potential but who haven't achieved as much as they should have in the big championships.
How different is tournament football compared to the qualifiers?
The difference is that you play every three or four days and there are no second chances. In qualifying, you might get a bad result - as we did against Macedonia - and still have the chance to recover from it.In tournament football there are no second chances - it's sudden death. Not only that, but you're also playing the top teams in every game. They have to be the best to get there in the first place.
What about the off-field challenges presented by tournament football?
You're away for a long time - hopefully! So there is a chance that the boredom factor could come in but, to be honest, I don't think anyone is ever better prepared than us when it comes to the organisation of the team.
We get first class treatment from The FA; there are games rooms, and we'll generally go out for meals when possible to break things up. Everything is in place to give us the best possible opportunity to succeed.
The most important thing for England to do well is having everyone fit and available. We need to make sure that people like Michael Owen, Paul Scholes, Sol Campbell, Rio Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard and David Beckham are fully fit.
We didn't have that at the World Cup and the England team can't afford to be missing key players.
Does the success that you've enjoyed at Old Trafford make you hungrier to repeat it for England?
I think success touches different people in different ways. It might whet some people's appetite to repeat it while others might be happy with what they've achieved and lose their hunger.
The great thing about what's happened at United is that we've been able to repeat our success again and again over a period of time.
The encouraging thing from an England perspective is that the young players we have in the squad now are extremely ambitious.
I see it every time we train. These players want to achieve things because they understand the enormity of what it will mean to all of our lives if we can win something together with England.
Do you change your game when you play for your country?
I try not to. People always used to say how different it is playing for your country but I think that was something people said without it necessarily being the case.
The growth of the Champions League has meant that many of us now have a wealth of European experience and there is not that much difference between those games and international fixtures.
The thing that is totally different about international football is the need to integrate a group of individuals into a team in the space of three days.
Are you looking forward to the prospect of playing with David Beckham again?
What's out of my hands because the manager picks the team. If I can work my way back into the side it would be fantastic to play alongside David again.
I've been lucky enough to play alongside him for the last 12 years. He may have moved clubs now but I'm sure the understanding will still be there on the pitch.
It's an honour to play for your country at any time. To do it with your mate playing in front of you is a great feeling.
The last competitive England game at Old Trafford was quite a match. What are your memories of the day?
The match against Greece was probably one of the most dramatic we’ve had in recent years. We left our form in the dressing room for the first half but we kept fighting and in the end Becks produced a piece of magic to see us through.
Often that's what you need in the really big games and it's something we need to produce in the tournaments too.
It was only when we watched Germany's game against Finland afterwards that we realised how close it had all been.
Place of Birth: Bury, England
Date of Birth: 18 February 1972
Weight: 12 04
Height: 5' 11''
Club: Manchester United