Fabio Capello has revealed he intends to remain England manager until 2012.
The Italian's contract is not due to expire until after the next UEFA European Championships but there has been plenty of speculation that he will quit once England's 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ campaign is over. However, ahead of tomorrow's friendly with Slovenia at Wembley, the 61-year-old has claimed there is no intention to quit early and that a second major tournament in Poland and Ukraine remains on his radar.
"My contract ends in 2012 and I want to respect it," he said. "It is not only a matter for me but also the FA but in my mind the target is to respect my contract."
Given the swift sea-change in England's fortunes - going from group-stage elimination in the UEFA EURO 2008 qualifiers to seven straight wins to take them to the brink of reaching the FIFA World Cup - it is a fair bet the FA would want Capello to stay. Of more immediate concern for the Italian is securing a place in South Africa, which England will do if they beat Slaven Bilic's men at Wembley on Wednesday.
In that sense, Slovenia, with their swift counter-attacking style, represent the perfect warm-up. Capello always intended to name his strongest side for tomorrow evening's game, even if four substitutes will be introduced at half-time and a further two at some point in the second period.
I have some really good forward players who have always done well with
the national team... They can all
play with Rooney, which is very important.
So it was particularly pleasing that skipper John Terry was able to play a full part in training after suffering a minor groin complaint in midweek, afterwards confirming hit fitness to captain the Three Lions. Once again though, Rio Ferdinand is missing as he nurses a groin problem.
Losing one or other of his first-choice central defenders is becoming a regular theme for Capello, although as Matthew Upson and Joleon Lescott have both benefited with some crucial international experience, he does not think the situation is disastrous.
"John Terry and Rio Ferdinand are very good players, who are important for the national team," he said. "But I have been able to see how some of the others do, even if I hope Rio will be ready for the next matches."
By then - when England visit the Ukraine next month - Capello's team hope to have qualified. A win against Croatia will do it, an achievement that is not beyond England given their recent performances.
With Ben Foster returning to the north west for the birth of his child, Robert Green will continue in goal, while Glen Johnson is expected to retain the right-back slot. There are a couple of issues for Capello to solve though, namely who starts on the right-hand side of midfield and who will partner Wayne Rooney in attack.
The first conundrum appears to lie between Shaun Wright-Phillips and Aaron Lennon, while Jermain Defoe is tipped to edge Emile Heskey out of the striking slot. For Capello, the most important thing is he has options. And good ones.
"I have some really good forward players who have always done well with the national team," he said. "Wayne Rooney will play but I also have (Peter) Crouch, (Carlton) Cole, Defoe and (Emile) Heskey. They can all play with Rooney, which is very important.
"The main thing is we can change the style both before and during the games. Sometimes we play with a diamond, with one man just behind the main strikers. Sometimes we play with other formations. The thing is, I can choose."