Gareth Southgate says England must stick together as they look to bounce back from the worst run of his managerial reign with the World Cup looming.
Having reached the semi-finals in Russia four years ago and finishing runners-up at last summer’s European Championship, the Three Lions are among the favourites to lift the trophy in Qatar this winter.
But things have gone off course at just the wrong time for England, who suffered the ignominy of relegation from the Nations League top tier with a game to spare on Friday.
Southgate's squad worked out on Saturday ahead of their final game before leaving for Qatar, against Germany at Wembley on Monday night.
But the manager is acutely aware that the latest 1-0 loss to Italy, extending their winless streak to a fifth match – the national team’s longest run without a victory since 2014 - is putting his own performance and that of his players under intense scrutiny.
Southgate was booed by some of the travelling support at San Siro, where he was quick to underline the importance of the group staying focused in the wake of Friday’s galling loss.
“We can’t say that there’s no value,” he said of the Nations League – a competition England took bronze in just three years ago. “These were important matches against top-level teams.
“We are in a run of bad result but it’s for us to put that right and the only way to do that is to stick with what we believe, stick with what’s got us success in the previous tournaments.
Italy v England player ratings
“And, in the end, the players have got to stay really tight because there is going to be a lot of noise, but a lot of that will be around me and that’s absolutely fine. It’s my job to take that pressure for them.”
Captain Harry Kane admits the team are going through a “tough period”, with Germany next up.
He said on Twitter: “We know results haven’t been what we wanted. As a group we know what we’re about and will fight through a tough period. Full house at Wembley against Germany will be great World Cup preparation.”