Steven Gerrard: England have Montenegro 'right where we want them'

Steven Gerrard on the offensive. Photo: PA

England skipper Steven Gerrard hit back in the World Cup war of words by claiming the Three Lions have Montenegro "right where we want them".

Roy Hodgson and his players were airborne, taking the short flight across the Adriatic from Rimini to Podgorica, when Montenegro coach Branko Brnovic launched his astonishing attack.

Brnovic appeared to be spoiling for a fight as he launched into his tirade, branding England scared long-ball merchants who think they have already qualified.

The Montenegro coach also took exception to supposed comments over the state of a pitch which Hodgson had not even made, in what seemed to be a pre-meditated attempt to goad England into losing their cool.

It did not work, however, and although Hodgson was content to ignore virtually everything Brnovic had said, Gerrard offered an insight into English thinking.

"It just shows we've got them exactly where we want them," said the Liverpool midfielder.

"They seem to be more interested in saying things and doing all the talking. But talking doesn't win you football matches.

"I'm not really too interested in what they've got to say in their press conference. Or in ours, to be honest.

"I'm more interested in how the lads play in training and tomorrow when the first whistle goes."

Montenegro lead Group H by two points from England and know victory will take them five clear and within touching distance of reaching a World Cup finals for the first time.

Hodgson and Gerrard did their due diligence on the pitch following their arrival, having landed in heavy thunderstorms.

Yet England declared themselves satisfied with the surface, which gave the trigger for Brnovic's outburst a rather contrived feel.

"I read statements from some English players about the way the pitch will look," he said.

"As far as I know, the English have always favoured long passes. This supports the idea that they are more scared of this game than we are."

England's last trip to the Balkan state saw Wayne Rooney red carded and Montenegro roar back from two goals down to snatch a draw in a raucous atmosphere.

Alan Shearer has warned that Montenegro could resort to kicking, shoving and scratching Rooney tomorrow in order to trigger another flash of temper.

Hodgson will discuss discipline collectively, but does not intend to single the Manchester United man out for a lecture on his behaviour.

However, he cannot guarantee Rooney will not play within himself as he attempts to ensure there is no repeat.

"Time will tell," said Hodgson.

"I am not concerned about playing him because of that. I trust he will go out and play like Wayne Rooney.

"But you are talking about something which is very much in the realms of psychology and it is impossible to give an honest answer to those kinds of questions.

"That is the responsibility people like Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard have to bear.

"Every time they go into a game, it is not just the coaching staff and the players around them, it is the whole of the nation expecting to see the very top level of performance.

"I have a lot of sympathy for them in that respect. But I have a great deal of trust as well.

"Their focus on the game and their desire to do well is as good as it can possibly be. But as human beings I can't say they won't fail sometimes because we are not talking robots, we are talking human beings.

"It doesn't matter how good you have been in the past, it doesn't necessarily mean you are going to be good in the future."

Yet it seems Brnovic is also vexed at the Football Association setting up friendlies against Germany and Argentina in November as part of their 150th anniversary celebrations.

These fixtures are still in the planning stages as the dates required are reserved for World Cup play-offs, which any of the countries could be in, although Montenegro are evidently bothered specifically by England.

"Perhaps they organised the friendlies before the start of the qualifiers," said Brnovic.

"Perhaps after the game tomorrow they will have to cancel them.

"I would say that could be their undoing tomorrow."