This is just the beginning for England

There was a lot of talk about England changing six players, but Roy obviously felt that he wanted to change the full-backs and we were quite good defensively. He wanted to be a bit more aggressive too, with Wilshere, and I thought he played quite well. But the changes didn’t make any difference to the result. The way Slovakia defended, their fans will be over the moon.

But on the other hand, we qualified. The most exciting thing for me is that I think there are more exciting things to come for us in this tournament. This is just the beginning. When you play in the group stages, you know you need to get through the group. When it’s the knockout stages, you know you have to score to be sure of getting through.

I don’t think this England team will be nervous. The players have experience now. Roy will know that we need to step things up a little bit and put the ball in the back of the net. The experience of the last three games will be fantastic for the players.

When I looked at the team and the performance, I thought the understanding between the lads was very good. There’s improvement needed, to make the special chances, so that Kane and Sturridge and Vardy and Rashford can put the ball in the back of the net. But the players are all aware of what they have to do.

Over the next few days the players will look over the videos and watch the games and talk during training, to try different things. It’s not about fitness now. I don’t think they’ve played badly in any way. I don’t think we played badly against Russia. We could have won three games on the trot. All we have to do is step up, tiny little things. They are all small things, but they are all very important.

The right-backs have been our best players so far. We are an attacking side. Defensively we haven’t had too many problems. We’re getting the full-backs forward, but we need to avoid getting too crowded. We need to allow a little more space around our attacking options. We just need to step up our decisions in the final third. Roy and his coaches need to talk to the players, to help them to learn about each other a little bit better.

You have to work hard on the training ground

You have to work hard on the training ground

Communication and information are very important. I’ve said it from day one – we have the talent to go all the way in this competition. Like in all walks of life, we need a little bit of luck. In all three games, the players have put the effort in. I really feel so confident. I think we have nothing to fear. I’m looking forward to watching the next game. As a squad, if we keep doing what we’ve been doing, we’re going to go a long way.

Being mentally tired can affect players on the pitch. That’s where the manager and the staff should notice these things in training. If Kane for example looks tired, you have to be honest. “Vardy, you’re playing. Harry, I can see you need a rest”. These things must be picked up very quickly. It’s part of being the manager and the staff to pick these things up. These things give you the edge.

Gary Lineker is a fantastic example. He was a terrible trainer, but he enjoyed playing and enjoyed scoring goals! Tiny things can be massive at international level. At club level, there’s time to know the players. There’s less time to know these things at international level. It’s important for the staff to see if players are happy. You want your international players to go out there full of confidence, ready to do their job.

The whole England squad should feel confident and relaxed. Whoever we get in the next round, they should fear us. They might say “Well, England have only scored a few goals”, but they will be scared about us. Other teams will be worried about us. Roy should say “Go out and do what you’ve been doing in the last three games – and score a few goals!”

There’s been nothing wrong with the last three performances. The England squad we’ve got are good enough to go through to the final of the competition.

This tournament is there for England to win it

The win over Wales was about the result on the day. There must have been a lot of pressure on both teams. The result was outstanding.

There was a lot of unnecessary chat before the game, from the managers and players. Coleman said “it’s just another match”. For me, that’s rubbish. It’s one of the biggest games against your big rivals. I know what it’s like, I made my debut against Wales!

I don’t think Bale’s free-kick was special. He got a lot of power behind it. I don’t think Joe Hart was expecting it. In my opinion, he should have saved it. The work-rate of both teams was exceptional, both sets of fans would have been proud of that.

England were on top before Wales scored. Every single English fan was happy to see Vardy on. It was a great decision to bring on Vardy and Sturridge. Roy would have been thinking “We’ve got to score two goals here”. One goal and you’re on a knife-edge then, it had to be two goals.

The lad Sterling, I’d like to stick up for him a bit. They haven’t given him a job to do, it’s like they sent him out and said “just go and play”. In my opinion, he doesn’t have to beat people, the manager could just tell him to get the ball into the box, as many times as possible.

I don’t think his miss was nerves, he just missed it. He’s got to be told his job. Just get crosses in. He hasn’t done that in either game, which makes me think he hasn’t been told to do that.

The changes made England a better team. Rooney ran the game in the second half, everything came through him. The England team knew they needed to score two. Wales didn’t stop trying, but there was a bit of luck with Vardy’s goal, as some linesmen would have given offside. We took control in the second half and it was a fantastic win for England.

They proved on that day and in the first half against Russia that this tournament is there for England to win it. Looking at other teams and their players, I think we’ve got the best group. And I’d rarely say that! I don’t want to put pressure on the players, don’t get me wrong! I want them to go out and play in the way I can see them performing, in my eyes.

England kept going, they had belief that we could get the second. Rashford showed intelligence for a young kid, with great runs. We had great positivity and if we can keep that going for the whole tournament, what a chance we have.

I think Walker has been fantastic and been a great credit to his team. I was saying during the game “Get it out to Walker”. Wales did their homework and realised what a threat he was and tried to stop him going down that right-hand side. And when Sturridge came on, we became more of a threat down the left-hand side.

Sturridge had that little bit of magic and all of a suddenly he squeezed the ball into the net, despite no space whatsoever. It was a fantastic goal. English fans don’t want be over-confident, but they must be looking forward to Monday’s match with Slovakia. That must be great for England supporters.

My expectation is another tremendous effort from our lads. The team spirit is very good and I expect the same effort as from the last two games, as the same effort will be good enough. I’ve had my say, I’ll let Roy pick the team. Let him pick the team he thinks will do the job. Then there’s no pressure on me! I hope Wales qualify as well, to protect me when I go to Wales!

England prove that tiny things can win you matches

I thought it was a very good England performance against Russia. You rely on individual players doing their job. If eleven players do their job, you become a team.

We made chances to win the game easily. At the end of the day, we didn’t take our chances. If we had, we would have won it.

Walker I thought was outstanding. He was causing so many problems down the right-hand side. As the captain, I’d want us to get the ball to him.

He was great on the night, he showed his class and his experience. I thought maybe we could have got him the ball a bit more.

I thought Danny Rose played very very well. He had Sterling on that side and that stopped him getting forward as much as Walker, but I thought both full-backs played exceptionally well.

I thought Dier played his holding role very well. He passed it, he intercepted, he got back when he needed to. For a young kid, 22 years of age, he showed a lot of calmness, all over the pitch. I’d agree with the TV coverage, he looks a future captain.

In attack, it was obvious to anyone that Kane didn’t have his best game. If Vardy had played, the combination of the two of them would have caused problems for Russia. It would have made it easier for the midfield to get the ball to them. It would have given the midfield more options.

Vardy would have done the running. It was one of those games when Kane couldn’t get involved. I don’t think we got enough into him. The two together, they could have caused the Russians a lot of problems.

Lallana first half was very very good for the team but went a bit dead in the second half. Sterling was very quick, but that’s where you need your captain. Robbo would have said: “When you check back on your right foot, cross it”. If Sterling does that five times in the first half and five times in the second, he’d have done his job.

It’s important that the manager can get his message across to the players. The advantage of a captain on the pitch is to tell players what is expected of them. If the players know the ball is coming in, they can make a run and know they have a chance. That for me was a tiny downside on the performance – and tiny things can win you matches.

Me and former England captain David Beckham, in Arsenal's directors' box

Me with former England captain David Beckham, in Arsenal’s directors’ box

For example, if I let the winger get a cross in and they get a chance, Shilts would shout across at me “Ken, don’t let them get a cross”. My job is to stop that winger getting a cross in, or creating something, for that team.

I talked in my first England blog about having something special in reserve. Something like a planned free-kick to use when you need it, but not to waste it if you’re already winning. At 0-0, we needed something special and Dier came up with it.

I was surprised to see Kane taking so many set-pieces, not just the free-kicks but the corners. He’s a goalscorer. Kane shouldn’t take corners, end of. He should be in the box, getting a bit of space off the defender and knocking the ball into the back of the net. Slovakia got a free-kick against Wales and just took it. I think even the ref was shocked! It doesn’t give defenders time to get ready.

I’d repeat, this is just for the England players and fans: we don’t want the opposition knowing what we have up our sleeve. As an example, when I’m now on stage, if the audience are enjoying me telling my old jokes and people are laughing, I save my new ones! Keep something special, for when you need it. I think my old teammate Glenn Hoddle mentioned this on ITV.

Defending a late lead is difficult, but you mustn’t let balls go into your box. Outside your box, shouldn’t be a problem. Most shots should go wide or over. Nothing is perfect. You can’t stop genius or luck, but you can work at this on the training pitch.

The attitude and the same performance, with a few little touches, would be great against Wales. And don’t give Bale any free-kicks around the box! These are all small things, but all so important.

England can learn from Leicester – and need something special in reserve

I’ve got a good feeling about England’s chances at Euro 2016. At the end of the day, it’s about the players needing to perform and do their job on the pitch.

If all the young talent put their individual ability into the team spirit, we could surprise people. The players can take heart from Leicester’s performances and gel together.

We need to be able to surprise the opposition, because they will look to surprise us. We must be ready. Do not be afraid to try something a bit different on the pitch. That can win you the game.

For instance, if a team have a certain way of playing we must be ready to cope with that and anything else they have that’s a bit unexpected.

We need to be prepared for free-kicks. For and against. For, it’s important to have something up our sleeves when it comes to free-kicks. Against, we must know how to deal with them from opponents and be ready for any surprises.

You need to know when to use something special and when to hold it back. If we are leading 2-0, we do not use our special free-kick. We save it for another day. If we are losing 2-0, we bring our special free-kick into play, to get back into the match and give the opposition something to think about.

Winning is about more than just the team on the pitch. It’s coaches, management, staff, the people watching on the bench. If the kit man has an idea, try it.

The opposition will have been watched. Do we notice any changes? We must get that across to the players as soon as possible. It could be small things, but they might make all the difference.

You need talkers on the pitch to be aware. We need to be aware of where they can hurt you and where we can hurt them. Don Howe used to say this. That’s when the players and the staff become a very big part of the team.

Small things can make all the difference

Small things can make all the difference

Terry Venables would have free-kicks planned, for all positions, for all over the pitch. Even from throw-ons – which is as good as a pass by the way – in our own half. We would get a shot, a cross, a switch of play, or purely get into the other half of the pitch.

All the players knew what to do and what position to be in. It was planned that well. We got many great results from doing this well, when I was at Crystal Palace.

Players don’t always do what you expect them to. At school, an opponent went to tread on my foot, which made me look down, but he slapped me around the head. I learnt from that very quickly! As Bruce Lee used to say, don’t take your eye off the opponent!

It’s really important for players not to lose their temper or get wound up. This will go on. Dele Alli could be a target. It’s easier said than done and it doesn’t mean you don’t tackle, but the mistake you make could cost your team the result.

I played for England against Morocco at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico where Ray Wilkins got sent off. Ray got frustrated and threw the ball at the referee. Although Maradona got away with pushing the ball into the goal with his hand! The best way to wind up an opponent is to play better than him.

By the way – this is just for England fans, players and staff. Don’t let the opposition read this please! Enjoy the tournament. I’m looking forward to it and I’d like everyone to enjoy the challenge. KWS

(My nickname at Arsenal was Kenny White Shorts, as I never got my shorts dirty!)