LONDON - Roy Hodgson has launched a passionate defence of England's old guard as he prepares to use the aging stars to form the spine of his team for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.
England start on the road to Brazil next Friday with their opening qualifier in Moldova followed by a home game against Ukraine the following week.
And despite England's tame exit from Euro 2012, Hodgson has resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes to a squad that still relies on the same players who have been in place for the last eight years.
Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard will captain England in Chisinau with John Terry, still awaiting the results of an FA charge of racially abusing QPR's Anton Ferdinand, anchoring Hodgson's defence alongside his Chelsea teammate Ashley Cole.
Frank Lampard may find it more difficult to earn a starting place; but the Chelsea midfielder's performance in a friendly victory over Italy recently suggested he still has an international future under Hodgson, who when asked why he had stuck so stoically by his older players said: "Because I think they are good enough, that's why.
"Terry and Lampard are bad examples for that kind of argument actually because Andre Villas-Boas, when he took over the Chelsea team, decided that was the way he would go - or maybe was advised to go by the owner - and yet they were eventually the players who came back and won the Champions League.
"I want to win football matches and I won't be prepared to throw players of Terry, Lampard and Gerrard's quality away from the national team until I am sure there are much better players who can take their place and help us win games.
"And frankly that's not happening in their club teams at the moment. They are not only featuring in their club teams but are very important members - when they don't play their club teams miss them enormously.
"I tend to take my guidelines from that rather than from people who say 'well, in the past they haven't done it'. Because I haven't coached them in the past, I haven't worked with them in the past.
"First they have to let me down and when they let me down maybe I will go along and say 'ah, people were right'. But they haven't done that as yet.
"In fact quite the reverse. I would suggest that Terry and Gerrard were two of the most important people in the Euros."
Other experienced players, such as Michael Carrick and James Milner, will also feature strongly in England's World Cup campaign, as will Wayne Rooney when he returns from injury.
But it is the emergence of younger stars such as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Danny Welbeck, Ryan Bertrand, Kyle Walker and Daniel Sturridge that gives Hodgson hope he can succeed where his predecessors failed and finally end England's long wait for success at a major tournament.
"I would say people are entitled to an opinion on our chances of winning the next World Cup, but it doesn't interest me what people say," Hodgson said.
"I am only interested in the opportunity to try and qualify for the World Cup and if we are good enough and lucky enough to do that then I shall be trying my very best to win it whatever people might say.
"I don't think people actually said we had much chance of winning the World Cup in 1966. Luckily we won't be favourites if we qualify - so if you ask me if I'm unhappy about that I will say no of course not.
"I'd much rather someone else bears the burden of being favourite to win a World Cup.
"But if we get there I am pretty certain I will have a very competitive group of players who will go into every game believing they can win it."
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