BILLY McKinlay has backed Roy Hodgson to prove his doubters wrong and have a successful World Cup with England.
McKinlay knows Hodgson better than most and is able to offer an interesting insight after working as his first-team coach at Fulham. Hodgson promoted the former Scotland midfielder into that role from reserve team manager.
McKinlay regarded that experience as an invaluable part of his education in the game and is sure Hodgson will call on his experience in the games against Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica to get out of the group stage and into the last 16. Some, though, are unconvinced by that prospect and doubts are surfacing about England's chances of progressing.
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McKinlay, now Northern Ireland assistant manager, said: "Roy and Ray Lewington will have England as [well] organised and prepared as any other nation. The tactical analysis and shape of the team will be paramount and Roy never compromised that side of things. At international level organisation is absolutely vital. That said, he does not complicate things. He will make sure they are solid at the back and he is excellent at recognising the threat of the opposition.
"When we were at Fulham we had some fantastic results away from home and we got to a Europa League final in 2010. Historically, Roy's team don't concede many goals. That will be key in this tournament. But, of course, you also need to score at the other end and there is good pace and variety in the England team. They will counter-attack well, with the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Wayne Rooney and Raheem Sterling being vital to the set-up.
"Possession is also key and Steven Gerard will provide that solid foundation in the middle of the park. So, overall, I think they have a nice variety to do very well in Brazil. Whatever happens, Roy will not allow any negatives to distract him. "
Indeed, Hodgson was quick to play down the rising expectation over some of his younger players yesterday and, while recognising that he has a number of exciting options at his disposal, he warned against making bullish predictions.
"I think it's very exciting," Hodgson said. "We have a lot of potential, we have a lot of excitement, a lot of belief in this potential. But I must advise some kind of caution because, as you know, the players haven't had much chance in an England shirt to show that potential can be realised.
"I personally think it will be but, before we build people up too much and say how wonderful these young players are, let's see some very good performances in an England shirt first.
"We know they can do it, we believe they can do it, but let's just calm ourselves down a little bit before we start saying that we have world-beaters in our squad. I think we have more options [than at Euro 2012]."
From his own experiences as an international coach, McKinlay expects the tournament to be decided by quality in the final third.
He said: "At Northern Ireland, we have managed to defend well in games and we've been fairly hard to beat. We've just not caused the opposition enough problems at the other end. That's the difference at the highest level. So, a country such as Uruguay with Suarez and Cavani should do well. Argentina with Messi and Aguero. Brazil with Neymar. They will be serious contenders, for sure."
He now hopes to get back into the game on a full-time basis after leaving Fulham when Rene Meulensteen took over. He was Neil Lennon's preferred choice to become his No.2 at Celtic after Johan Mjallby quit.
McKinlay, 45, has been linked with Leeds United and said: "I have one or two things in the pipeline. I'm open minded about my next job, whether that is as a manager or part of a coaching staff."