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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep, 5, 2006

Terry: England ready for McClaren's 'first major test'

Captain John Terry insists England are ready for their 'first major test' under Steve McClaren as they prepare to face Macedonia in tomorrow's Euro 2008 qualifier.

England destroyed Andorra 5-0 without having to play especially well on Saturday at Old Trafford, however they may have to put in a more convincing performance against Macedonia in Skopje.

'It's a tough place to come,' said Terry.

England won 2-1 in Macedonia three years ago, in a Euro 2004 qualifier.

'It was a very good Macedonia side back then,' said Terry. 'They have come on leaps and bounds since then.

'The fans were very loud, singing and chanting and quite close to the pitch I remember, I'm sure it'll be the same again.

'We got off to a great start with three points at the weekend. It's important we come here again and aim for the three points.

'It's important to keep this ball rolling, keep getting the wins. It's our first major test really, something we're looking forward to and we're looking forward to challenging ourselves against the best.'

England's black players suffered some racial abuse on their previous visit, and a St George's cross flag was also burnt by home supporters.

'We noticed that,' Terry recalled. 'Someone said the flag was being burnt, we turned around and saw a glimpse of it and obviously that's still in the memory.'

England also beat Greece 4-0 in McClaren's first match in charge, and so far Sven-Goran Eriksson's successor has had no problems adapting to international football.

Terry was handed the captaincy by the former Middlesbrough manager and said at a press conference televised by Sky Sports News: 'I'm enjoying it, putting the armband on before each game. It's something I'm very proud to do.'

He added: 'Every player is different. I'm coming into this role, making it my own. Over the last three or four years at Chelsea and England I've learned from people like Becks (David Beckham) and Marcel Desailly.'

A star performer in the win over Andorra was midfielder Steven Gerrard, who has shone on the right flank.

Gerrard will win his 50th cap tomorrow night and Terry declared: 'He's absolutely different class.'

Predicting there would be 'many more' caps for Gerrard in the future, Terry turned his attention to the make-up of the squad, which is now without David Beckham after the long-serving captain was dropped by McClaren.

'It's a new era and things have changed around the squad,' he said. 'We're all together, very young and getting on great at the moment.'

Terry confirmed the burning of the flag on their previous visit had galled the players but he was also confident they could all - even the less experienced internationals - handle the intimidating atmosphere.

'(I felt) angry a little bit. It's our country - we are out there feeling very proud,' he said.

'We are all grown-ups and experienced enough to know what we are coming into tomorrow night, we know what to expect.'

He also stressed the players were consulted by new manager McClaren over possible changes to formation and tactics in preparation for the Andorra match, during which they moved from 4-4-2 to 3-5-2.

'What was important was Steve asked our opinion of this,' said Terry. 'One thing with the new manager is he will ask if we are comfortable and he will ask our opinion.

'Steve realised there was an opportunity the other day to change to three at the back. If we do go a goal down we are prepared to take a risk and throw men forward.'

Terry admitted the 5-0 victory over Andorra had not provided a test, especially in defence, for the team.

'They didn't create many chances, they got everyone behind the ball,' said the Chelsea man. 'The whole game we felt totally in control, we felt comfortable.'

The England skipper, however, was reluctant to be drawn into the row surrounding former team-mate William Gallas who Chelsea have accused of threatening to score an own goal if he was selected at the start of the season.

'I don't really want to talk about that,' he added. 'All I know from last year was that William was in for talks but they kept on breaking down.

'I don't want to talk about that now, I want to focus on England. I'll talk about it when I get back.'

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