Roy Hodgson today began preparing for the proudest moment of his career and warned fans not to count England out in next summer’s World Cup.
The former Albion boss believes leading his country in Brazil will be his crowning achievement in football after his side clinched qualification with a 2-0 victory over Poland at Wembley last night.
And Hodgson insisted England can make an impact in the finals – but refused to look ahead in detail to the tournament amid the emotion of last night’s impressive victory.
“You’ve always got a chance,” said Hodgson, who saw goals from Wayne Rooney and captain Steven Gerrard seal top spot in Group H ahead of Ukraine.
“If you want to win the lottery you have to buy a ticket and we’ve now got our ticket. That is useful, but at the moment quite a few emotions are churning around inside me and I died 1,000 deaths every time Poland crossed the halfway line! So I will put on hold my concerns about what we do in Brazil until a later date.
“The important thing was to do the job. That sounds easy but anyone who has been involved in football for a long time knows it’s not.
“The important thing is for us to keep working hard.”
Hodgson lifted multiple league titles in Sweden with Halmstads and Malmo, won the Danish league with FC Copenhagen, led Inter Milan and Fulham to European finals, established the Baggies in the Premier League and took Switzerland to the 1994 World Cup as well as masterminding their qualification for Euro 96.
But he believes leading England to next year’s World Cup finals will surpass his previous achievements.
“I think it will top the lot,” he said. “I am cautious in answering the question because I don’t want to denigrate other achievements and have people in Switzerland think I wasn’t very proud of that team.
“For Switzerland to go to a World Cup in 1994 and Euros in 1996 after 30-odd years of no qualification was a good achievement.
“But I’m English and you can’t get away from the fact that, as an Englishman, it means a little bit more. It means an awful lot.”
“There will be a lot of pressure on us along the way but this team is growing in terms of accepting pressure and the real beauty for me is that the blend between the experienced players and the younger players looks good.”