England boss Gareth Southgate has urged Three Lions supporters to get behind his side and roar them to the brink of World Cup qualification when they play Slovakia at Wembley on Monday.
Fans showed their discontent at an underwhelming showing both during and after England’s 4-0 win over European minnows Malta on Friday where three late goals flattered the visitors.
Victory on Monday would propel England five points clear of second-placed Slovakia in Group F with two qualification matches to play, and put them firmly on course for next summer’s finals in Russia.
Southgate, however, acknowledges that the onus is on his players to ignite a spark in the Wembley crowd and avoid a repeat of the scenes in Malta where his side’s performance was jeered.
“We have some exciting players and we want to show that,” said Southgate.
“We have a responsibility to get the Wembley crowd on their feet but, equally, everywhere we go in the world the home crowd give the team a lift. It will be great if we can get the level of support that stadium can bring.
“It’s a great opportunity for us. The whole country wants to get to the World Cup. This result can virtually get us to Russia. We are playing good opposition so we have to make sure we are tactically prepared, which we will be.”
Southgate has hinted that Marcus Rashford is in contention to start after replacing the out-of-sorts Raheem Sterling at half-time against Malta. It would be a first England start at Wembley for the 19-year-old.
“He is a talent with high potential and we really like his mentality,” added Southgate. “He has been playing very well for Manchester United this season and we wouldn’t hesitate to start him.
“Starting him was a possibility in Malta but he missed some of the training, not only with us but the week before with his club. We have been looking after him a bit. It’s a lovely dilemma with regard to our attacking positions.”
Tottenham’s Eric Dier is available again after suspension, although former Middlesbrough and England Under-21 manager Southgate, who celebrated his 47th birthday yesterday, hinted there would not be wholesale changes.
Southgate, meanwhile, has resisted the temptation to name a permanent successor to former skipper Wayne Rooney, who announced his international retirement last month, but has confirmed that Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson will retain the armband.
“Jordan stays [as captain] and there is no point in changing that,” added Southgate. “Normally the captain does the two games when we’ve been together unless we change the team and that guy does not play.”