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Zenit sign Bart Simpson

The Toe Poke 6 hours ago
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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Nov 14, 2007

Gerrard backs McClaren, calls for continuity

England's stand-in captain Steven Gerrard has reiterated his support for beleaguered manager Steve McClaren./news/story?id=482100&cc=

McClaren's position is under heavy scrutiny with England in serious danger of failing to qualify for Euro 2008.

England have assembled for a friendly in Austria on Friday ahead of their final qualifier against Croatia next week but their fate could effectively be decided on Saturday if Russia beat Israel.

'I'm certainly backing the manager,' said Gerrard, who is filling in as skipper for the injured John Terry, at a press conference shown on Sky Sports News.

'I've got a lot of faith in him, I've enjoyed working with him and speaking to the other players I'm sure they feel the same.

'There is no point changing managers every five months or every year. You need continuity and I feel we are moving in the right direction.'

England's fate is now out of their hands but Liverpool midfielder Gerrard is trying not to worry too much about Russia's clash in Israel and focus on his own game.

'The mood was good in training, the ads are smiling and working hard,' he added.

'Preparation for Friday is all we can do. We have got to forget everything else and focus on trying to beat Austria.

'You don't need motivation when joining up with England, you are representing your country.'

Gerrard admitted, however, it would be impossible for his mind not to wander to events in Tel Aviv on Saturday night.

He said: 'We will have a close eye on Saturday. I think we will have to watch it.

'It will be an interesting game and we have got a lot waiting on it.

'It is something out of our control. It is pointless worrying or bring concerned until it happens.

'We will keep our fingers crossed and hope Israel or Macedonia do us a favour.'

Striker Michael Owen said that although next Wednesday's Croatia match could be rendered irrelevant by results at the weekend, it was important for the players to approach this week as they would any other with the national team.

'It could be a difficult week. We have got to try to block out quite a lot of things and be in the right mental and physical state so if anything was to go for us on Saturday then we will be in the right frame of mind to go on and do our best on the Wednesday,' said the Newcastle star.

'It is all about preparing right and being in the right frame of mind to pounce.

'In the bigger picture Wednesday is the all-important game and we have to believe that.

'We have to believe if we win that we will qualify; we have to think that otherwise you get lazy in your training and we would be fools to let it slip when we only have one game left.'

Owen also lent his support to McClaren, although he dismissed reports the players would lead a delegation to Football Association headquarters to plead for the manager to be allowed to continue.

'I think every player you would ask would back the manager, that is a natural thing to do,' he added.

'He has been with us for a while and we think he is the right man for the job. All this talk of going to Brian Barwick (FA chief executive) is paper talk but I think every player will come out and say they hope the manager stays.

'All the players will be doing their utmost to do it for the country. We don't think to ourselves `the manager is under pressure'. We play for the manager and the nation every time we pull on the shirt.'