England will be at Russia World Cup to win, insists Ashley Young
BURTON -- Ashley Young insisted that England will not temper their ambition to try to win this summer's World Cup despite relatively modest expectations.
Not a single member of Gareth Southgate's youthful 23-man squad has experienced winning a match at the tournament, and Young is one of several preparing to enjoy the first World Cup experience of their careers.
Last month Manchester City defender Kyle Walker claimed it would require "a miracle" for England to triumph in Russia, but Young is adamant that the mindset in the camp is more positive as Southgate's men train at St George's Park ahead of Saturday's friendly against Nigeria at Wembley.
"To be honest, I don't think you go into a tournament not trying to win it and that's exactly what we will be doing," Young said in a news conference.
When presented with Walker's comments, the Manchester United man added: "At times you need luck, sometimes you create your own luck. But you don't go into a tournament thinking 'right, we're going to get only this far.' You go into a tournament wanting to win it and that's exactly what we'll be doing."
Gary Cahill is one of only five players in this England squad who were present in the 23-man group that Roy Hodgson took to Brazil in 2014, when they endured a miserable group stage exit after agonising defeats to Italy and Uruguay and a goalless draw with Costa Rica.
The Chelsea captain is desperate to have a better experience this time around, and believes the mental approach of each and every player will be key.
"My advice would be to go and play their football and relax in the environment as much as you possibly can, to get the best out of yourself," he said. "It's a very intense environment, but it's something you should embrace.
"These boys have got many, many years ahead I'm sure, but you shouldn't look [at it] like that. You should look like it's your last one because you never know what's round the corner. I just want to try to enjoy this tournament.
"Enjoy means go as far we possibly can. Enjoy means by winning games. That's the only way you enjoy it."
Young is even more determined to make the most out of a first World Cup that, at 32, is also likely to be his last, and insisted that he never gave up hope of earning a place in Russia despite not featuring in any of England's qualifiers.
"I just had to get out there and play football and play as well as I could and hopefully the England manager would come and call me up again," he said. "Now he's done that and I'm going to a World Cup and the excitement for me is massive.
"I'm delighted. I'm like a kid inside and I just want to get there and get the tournament started."
There are fears about the potential for incidents of racism to overshadow the tournament in Russia, given the number of reports of racist abuse in Russian football.
Earlier this month, the Russian Football Union was fined 30,000 Swiss francs (just under £23,000) by world governing body FIFA following discriminatory chants from fans during the friendly against France in St Petersburg on March 27.
It was alleged France players were subjected to monkey chants during the match.
When England's Young was asked about concerns over racist abuse, he said: "Hopefully FIFA, if anything is to come about, they will be able to deal with it.
"Whether it's going to happen, whether you are on the pitch, I'm not sure how you react to it.
"I'm sure we'll talk about it and we have talked about it, in the squad, in what to do and what not to do."
Just over a week ago, Southgate revealed part of his planning for the tournament would include preparing his players for any racist incidents they may face.
Young confirmed he had family and friends going out to Russia, and said: "It hasn't put them off. It's a World Cup, my first one -- of course family and friends want to go to it."
Press Association contributed to this report.
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.