England manager Gareth Southgate writes ahead of Friday's game with Czech Republic

The England manager writes for the match programme ahead of Friday's Euro qualifier with Czech Republic...

Friday 22 Mar 2019

We’ve been really looking forward to getting back with the players again for this month’s games, having had such a strong end to last year.

We’ve also got a fresh qualifying campaign for EURO 2020 and what will be an amazing tournament. We’ve still got the Nations League semi-finals to look forward to later in the year, but we have to get back to zero and remember what has got us to this point, the way we’ve worked and the strengths of the group and re-focus to make sure we’re ready for this next challenge.

England v Czech Republic
  • Euro Qualifier
  • 7.45pm, Friday 22 March 2019
  • Wembley Stadium connected by EE
  • Live on ITV

We have to take care of qualification for this one, because the tournament itself is going to be massive. To have the group matches at Wembley, having lived through all of that myself 20-odd years ago and having had an incredible experience, it is a massive incentive there for all of us.

It’s a tough qualifying group that we’re in. In terms of the nations involved, you can look at the rankings and think that in terms of quality we should get out of it, but they’re all games which have caused us problems in the past.

We’ve played Montenegro twice out there in recent years and not beaten them yet, so that shows how tough these games can be. It’s about making sure our preparations are spot on. There is competition for places in the squad and the team and that’s a really important factor for us, to make sure everybody’s focus is right.

The Nations League this summer is something we can look forward to, but this month we really need to park it and concentrate on these two games. What was pleasing in the autumn was that one of the questions against us was could we win against the top teams.

Gareth and his staff watch on during training at St. George's Park earlier in the week

So to get the victory in Spain and then to win in such dramatic circumstances against Croatia, having gone beyond, was a real test for the team, not just in terms of capability but also the personality and character that they’re now showing. These are all hurdles which we need to overcome. It’s something to really get excited about in the summer, but we need to make sure that this week, we’re taking a really strong step towards the next summer and there’s no room for error.

You can read the full piece from Gareth in the match programme, which also features the thoughts of Callum Wilson, Patrik Berger and much more. Order your copy now.

By Gareth Southgate England manager