LONDON (Reuters) - Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn says critics claiming England players don’t care about playing for their country make him “absolutely indignant”.
England, who can qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia with a win over Slovenia at Wembley later on Thursday, have frequently been accused by domestic critics of having players who lack passion or caring more about their club performances.
But Glenn, speaking at the Leaders in Sport conference at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge on Thursday, said there was no question that the players cared deeply.
“I get absolutely indignant about the suggestion that players when they play for England don’t really care. Because it is not anything like my experience,” he said.
“If anyone has got any scintilla of a thought that England players don’t care about playing for England, lose it from your mind right now, they care passionately,” he added.
“They don’t take a penny in match fees, they give it to charity. And when you get them to close their eyes, and this is an exercise we have done, and ask what is the one medal you would love to win? They all come back with a World Cup or a Euros,” he added.
“It is always that, there is real hunger there, our job is how do you channel that hunger and equip them with the tools that are needed to play in international tournaments and that is what we are doing.
Glenn said the lesson drawn from England’s second-round loss to Iceland in the 2016 European Championship in France, was that the players needed better mental preparation.
“The important thing we had to take out of the Euros was – we know that we have not been leading edge in terms of psychological support for that senior team,” said Glenn.
England’s only major tournament victory was in the 1966 World Cup on home soil and they have not reached the semi-finals in one since the 1996 European Championship which they also hosted.
“England players do not travel well, they don’t tend to play abroad, their familiarity with international camps isn’t that great – so we know there is a brittleness, I think in unfamiliar circumstances, which we have to deal with,” he added, noting that former manager Sam Allardyce and his successor Gareth Southgate had addressed the issue.
“That isn’t something you wish for overnight, you have to go and work for it. I think out of failure, and it was a failure, you learn from it and you hopefully build – and we are building and we will build that level of resilience,” he said.
Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond