Bryan Robson predicts another summer of frustration unless England overcome their “mental block” at the World Cup.
Another tournament cycle looks set to bring qualification for the finals, with the Three Lions sitting two points clear at the of Group F ahead of the matches against Malta and Slovakia.
It appears a case of when rather than if Gareth Southgate’s men qualify, so the main question hovering over them regards how they will cope in Russia.
England have not been beyond a major tournament quarter-final since reaching the Euro 96 semis and bowed out of last World Cup at the group stage.
Worse was to follow as Iceland inflicted a chastening Euro 2016 exit at the last-16 juncture and ex-Three Lions captain Robson expects more struggles unless they improve mentally.
“I think England have always done well in the qualifying stages,” the former midfielder, capped 90 times by is country, told Press Association Sport.
“We seem to cope with that mentally – you know, we perform well and we do look quite comfortable as far as qualifying.
“When we actually get to the major tournaments, there seems to be a mental block about the pressure and what happens to the players when we get into the final stages.
“They just don’t perform like you would expect them to when you watch them in the Premier League, so that mental issue has got to be resolved if England want to do well in the World Cup next time round.
“But, I think we’ve played all the tough away games and we’ve got everybody at home, so, you know, I would have thought with the format of the qualification there is no way we’re going to slip up.
“But when we actually get to the finals, then it is a matter of mentally the players have got to cope with it far better than what we have done over the last 16, 20 years.”
Robson was part of the England squad that reached the World Cup semi-finals in 1990 and was assistant to Terry Venables at Euro 96, where he worked with current boss Southgate.
“The results have gone pretty well for him so far,” said Robson, who will coach Manchester United Legends against their Barcelona counterparts in a charity match this Saturday at Old Trafford.
“I expected that, though, when you look at the England squad and the teams that we’re playing against – no disrespect to them but, you’d expect England to qualify and top the group.
“But there’s still work to be done and they’ve still got to win the home games, but I am fairly confident that they can win the home games and can qualify for the World Cup.”
Robson clearly enjoyed his role as England assistant, just as he likes working as an ambassador for Manchester United.
The 60-year-old has been in that role since leaving his post as Thailand boss in 2011 and would never close the door on coaching entirely.
“I am happy with ambassadorial role at United, but, you know, I never say no,” Robson added. “It’s always what opportunities become available.
“I’ve got to say that when I worked with Terry Venables with England, I really enjoyed the role as being assistant to the manager with England.
“So you’d never say no to maybe situations like that.”
:: Tickets for the match between Manchester United Legends and Barcelona Legends on September 2 are on sale now at www.manutd.com/legendsareback. All money raised will help the Manchester United Foundation’s work in the local community.
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