Centre-back Gary Cahill has credited coach Gary Neville for helping England toughen up defensively and feels the team are becoming more savvy on the field, having been “too nice” in the past.
The Three Lions have moved on from their failure at the summer’s World Cup by winning all four of their games that have followed, with three of those being Euro 2016 qualifiers.
They have also – starting from the 0-0 draw with Costa Rica that concluded their campaign in Brazil – put together a run of clean sheets that will extend to a record-equalling tally of six if the Group E leaders register another in Saturday’s qualifier against Slovenia at Wembley.
Those shut-outs are something Cahill says he and his international team-mates are “really proud” of.
And when asked about the influence Neville is having as he assists boss Roy Hodgson, Cahill said of the former England and Manchester United full-back: ”He was a fantastic defender.
“And he likes being hard, and tough to play against, being physical – almost like old-school, whereby you let the attackers know they are in a game and feel your presence, just by being aggressive and getting tight to them.
“It’s something we’ve certainly addressed. We are definitely a lot harder to play against defensively. It is about being physical and wanting to win the ball back and putting tackles in – the basics of defending, really. I think at the minute we are doing that really well.”
Wayne Rooney suggested after the 2-1 loss to Uruguay at the World Cup that England needed to be more streetwise, and Cahill thinks the team are developing more of an edge mentally as well as physically.
“I think at times we’ve been too nice, and it (changing that) comes with experience,” Cahill said.
“It’s a big part of the game – knowing when to slow things down, or when not to play from the back. It’s just managing the game really, which maybe we are doing a lot better.”
With regard to his international manager Hodgson, Cahill has backed the 67-year-old to lead England beyond Euro 2016.
There has been talk this week about the possibility of the Football Association extending Hodgson’s current contract, which runs out after the 2016 tournament in France.
And asked if he thought Hodgson was the right man to continue taking England forward long-term, Cahill said: “Yes – I think he has been great for us.
“The manager has addressed things he wanted to address and it is working at the minute for us. We are building and going in the right direction. Everyone is behind the manager.”