David James insists being involved in a relegation survival battle at Portsmouth will not dent his confidence when England aim for 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ glory next June.
James helped Pompey gain their first win of the season in the Premier League at Wolves on Saturday after seven successive defeats. It has been a turbulent period with many leading players leaving Fratton Park during the summer and last week the wages not being paid.
James also experienced the disappointment of going down with West Ham six years ago at a time when England were striving to qualify for UEFA EURO 2004. But a combination of his vast experience and his well documented work with a psychologist will ensure James is in the right frame of mind should the same fate befall Portsmouth before he heads to South Africa with Fabio Capello's side.
The 39-year-old, currently preparing for Saturday's FIFA World Cup qualifier in Ukraine, said: "I've been in a relegation battle before with West Ham albeit in slightly different circumstances because England were going through the qualification issue (of Euro 2004) when we were relegated. In fairness, losing the first seven games could be a bit damaging for the confidence, if you want it to be. Genuinely, it's about putting things right and I've been happy with my contributions.
"Rather than getting frustrated with the issues, as I might have done in the past, you understand that there's a job to be done and what you need to do to achieve that. You do the right thing. I've spoken in the past about the sports psychologist work I've done. That's certainly helped me. Losing seven games in a row for my club would have been enough, in the past, to have made a major dent. But the focus has to be right. There are things you can improve on and work on, rather than just analysing that you lost the game."
When I'm with Portsmouth, literally I'm just focused on winning for Portsmouth,
James admitted it is important Portsmouth have achieved financial stability after the fire sale of their leading players. He said: "When I'm with Portsmouth, literally I'm just focused on winning for Portsmouth and I'm not worried about my performances in terms of England. It has to be that way.
"Now I've come away with England, I can't worry about Portsmouth. But it is, having said that, important that the club is stable. Not just for me as an individual, but for everybody concerned. But that's been sorted now. Now it's about stabilising the club in the league."
James also believes there is genuine quality in the signings made by Paul Hart in rebuilding the squad. He said: "There are difficulties for a side competing at the lower end of the table when you've got so many players either on loan or out of contract. "It's difficult for them to show loyalty to a side that they're not going to be with the following season. The impact of a relegation wouldn't hit them so hard.
"You could argue that, if you've got a load of loan players in this current situation, they're again not worrying so much about next season because, again, it might not be their club whose not going to be paying them. But we acquired some very decent players. That's testament to the gaffer and the way Portsmouth, as a club, has survived throughout their history."
James was linked with a move away from Portsmouth right up until the closure of the summer transfer window. But he insisted: "It wasn't about me going. The frustration was that two years ago we won the FA Cup and had a lot of players who had turned Portsmouth from a relegation side to a team that was just above the middle of the table.
"To take out your key players means the drop was going to be significant. We had assurances that players didn't need to be sold, that the club was stable. All this, that and the other. Then, all of a sudden, your captain's gone and a lot of your star names are going. It wasn't a case of running for the exit. It was more a case of: ''If you're going to say something, then do it.' Now, as I say, the players we've got in are decent. We've stabilised and we're looking for more points."