New England manager Sam Allardyce has admitted that he will be nervous when he leads the national side out for the first time in their opening 2018 World Cup qualifier against Slovakia on Sunday.
The 61-year-old has spent his whole managerial career in the English leagues, leading Bolton Wanderers, Newcastle United, West Ham United and Sunderland among other teams, but has always maintained that the England job was his ultimate career goal.
After being named as Roy Hodgson’s successor following England’s disappointing Euro 2016 campaign, he will fulfill his ambition when he takes charge of the national side in Trnava.
“I think there will be nerves,” Allardyce told reporters on Saturday.
“Every new job you get, you are nervous. You hope your players go out and do your talking and deliver what you want – a victory.
“I’ll be nervous in the early stages,” he added. “But once the game starts, the focus on the game kicks in and I don’t hear the crowd around me.
“I will be thinking about how I communicate with the team to make the changes I need to.”
England’s preparations have been affected by the loss of goalkeeper Fraser Forster who injured his arm in training and the withdrawal of left back Luke Shaw, who had returned to train with Manchester United as England look to manage his workload.
One player who will be available is captain Wayne Rooney, who was named in the starting side Allardyce announced on Friday and will make his 116th appearance, overtaking David Beckham as England’s most-capped outfield player.
“It is always an honour to represent your country so to become the player with the second-highest number of caps is great,” Rooney said.
“But tomorrow is about the team. I’m sure one day in the future I’ll look back but right now I am looking forward and that is all I am focused on,” he added.
“I have said many times I’m proud to play for England and have been since I got in the team, but it is the start of a new qualification campaign so it is important that we get off to a good start.”