'Don't expect praise for beating San Marino'
PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES / GARETH BUMSTEAD
As England prepare to play San Marino, officially the joint-worst team in world football, at Wembley on Friday morning (Singapore time), their former manager Graham Taylor has warned the players not to expect any praise, however many goals they win by.
Taylor was in charge of the England team drawn with San Marino in a qualifying group for the 1994 World Cup.
His side beat them 6-0 and 7-1 but, far from receiving any credit, he was sacked after the latter game, played in Bologna, Italy, for failing to reach the Finals.
The players have even had to live ever since with going into the record books for conceding the quickest goal ever scored in a World Cup tie, when an errant back-pass by Stuart Pearce allowed Davide Gualtieri to score after 8.3 seconds.
When San Marino faced England in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, they again conceded 13 goals over the two matches, losing 5-0 and 8-0.
Those results emphasised that far from improving with regular competition, the team have got statistically worse, sinking to joint 208th-place with Bhutan of the 209 countries in Fifa's official rankings.
So how does one of the world's most powerful football nations, full of highly paid players, prepare to play against them?
"The main thing about playing teams like that is that you have to be very professional about everything and accept that if you beat them 5-0, you'll probably get no praise," Taylor said.
"That applies particularly this time when San Marino have not done anything in all these years. You're expected to win and if it's only 2-0 or 3-0, you'll be criticised.
"And it can present a problem unless players accept what they've got to do, which is maintain belief and professionalism."
Taylor (above) believes that England manager Roy Hodgson, who was also in charge for the most recent meetings with San Marino, has sufficient experience not to take anything for granted in the Euro 2016 qualifier.
But he counsels against fielding a weakened team in order to blood new players.
"England have a comfortable draw in their group and it's a changing England team, but I still believe in that balance between introducing youngsters and including more experienced players," he said.
"I'm not a big lover of giving players a debut just because it's San Marino. Some people say it's the kind of game for that. No, it's a game you have to win first and foremost."
Hodgson appears to have anticipated any criticism of a failure to win on Friday by another big margin, when he said last week: "We scored 13 against San Marino last time, but I don't remember getting a great deal of praise or satisfaction about that."
There is unlikely to be any much of either this time, whatever the score. - Reuters.