England’s ambition to become the best in the world was laid out in a powerful presentation by manager Gareth Southgate, but Wayne Rooney was not there to hear it.
Bowing out at the group stage of the last World Cup and then to Iceland at Euro 2016 saw the Three Lions plummet to a low that the former defender is charged of dragging them up from.
Wednesday’s opponents Germany are role models for the improvements required if England are challenge for a major trophy – an ambition outlined by Southgate in a presentation at St George’s Park on Monday morning.
The 46-year-old invited those in his thoughts but not the squad to join the group and, while it was always subject to club commitments, only Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland – out since last March’s friendly in Germany – made the trip.
Rooney was conspicuous by his absence as he stayed at Manchester United to undergo treatment on an injury sustained in a collision with Phil Jones, missing a meeting in which new boy James Ward-Prowse revealed the lofty ambitions outlined.
“It was a very powerful message,” the Southampton midfielder said, before confirming Rooney was not there.
“It is one that the Under-21s have received before, sort of highlighted about the highs and lows of a career and the ambitions that he sees for us.
“And you know, we want to establish ourselves as a top team in the world.
“So it is all about plugging away at those goals and making sure that what we do now stands us in good stead for when we reach major tournaments.”
Asked what the goal is, Ward-Prowse added: “I think obviously we want to be the best in the world.
“If you want to win major tournaments, then you’ve got to become that sort of team.
“In every department – the medical side of it, technical and tactical, the operations and the way we things work – we all want to be the best and make sure we give ourselves a chance to succeed.”
Jermain Defoe, in line to make his first international appearance since November 2013, echoed Ward-Prowse’s sentiments, saying the presentation was a “really impressive” look at the bigger picture with the ultimate goal of becoming world champions.
The meeting touched on the high and all too frequent lows for England, such as the excruciating exit to Iceland and Southgate’s moment of despair.
The defender’s penalty failure saw England lose their Euro 96 semi-final to Wednesday’s opponents – a raw moment that Jamie Vardy confirmed was part of the presentation.
“The penalty was on there, yes,” the Leicester frontman said.
“He didn’t go into much detail but he wanted it to be on there to show how far he has come as well.
“Obviously him being in that situation to have his knowledge of that can benefit us quite a lot.
“It was great obviously, we were looking forward to the World Cup and beyond and what basically we want to achieve as a squad together.
“We just want to keep improving there were highlights and clips from the past as well and when things have not gone right in the past and how we can use them and remember them to benefit us in what we want to achieve and help us keep progressing.”
The meeting was similar in style and substance to what Ward-Prowse and fellow new boy Nathan Redmond experienced with Southgate at Under-21s level.
The former became Young Lions captain under Southgate and believes that this group’s leadership qualities makes up for the lack of experience as they look to move away from the notion of a permanent England captain.
“I think from my experience in the Under-21s, we had a mini-leadership group within the team,” Ward-Prowse said.
“The idea was not only to have one captain but sort of four, five, six main leaders within a team.
“Certainly looking around the players that are at the minute, we have definitely got that and more.
“I think in high-pressure moments it’s about those leaders on the pitch taking responsibility and I think that’s something that he will try to implement as his time increases with the squad.”