Neville fights English 'fear'
GARY Neville wants to get rid of the fear factor surrounding England.
It has been an unusual few days around the Three Lions camp, with Gareth Barry and Frank Lampard ruled out of Euro 2012 before their disappointment was put into sharp perspective by a talk from a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp, which members of Roy Hodgson's squad will visit when they arrive in Poland.
Now minds have to focus on tomorrow's final friendly with Belgium at Wembley, the last chance Hodgson will have to see his players in a meaningful game before their Euro 2012 opener with France in Donetsk on June 11.
And it is another chance for Neville to impress upon the players he is working with as a member of Hodgson's backroom team that starring for England should be fun.
"I want to give them an appetite to be free and have expression," said Neville. "This is a great moment for them. Many have said it before. There has been a fear about it when players have played for England. We have to remove it."
Time is limited though, largely due to Hodgson's "brave" decision to give players that -- apart from skipper Steven Gerrard and Liverpool team-mate Glen Johnson -- he has no knowledge of, a lengthy post-season break.
"No manager has ever given his players 10 days off," said Neville.
"But Roy has respected the fact they need a break. He is really brave but it is something that needed to happen. We have tried everything else."
With midfield resources so badly weakened, one of the players who may now come into contention is 18-year-old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who made a decent international debut in Oslo.
Neville was impressed when he saw the teenager in action for Arsenal in their Champions League encounter with AC Milan earlier in the year.
"The opportunity is there for him," said the former Manchester United full-back.
"It is about grabbing that moment. He was outstanding against AC Milan and he showed good glimpses of his skill on Saturday when he came on."
With Glen Johnson and Danny Welbeck unlikely to be involved, Hodgson will at least look to provide his three remaining Chelsea players with some game-time against Belgium, with Wayne Rooney set to play some part, even though he is suspended for England's opening two group matches.
That is one of the reasons why there is so much pessimism around England at the moment, something which has not escaped Neville's attention.
"There seems to be the lowest expectation I have ever known going into a tournament for an England team," he said. "The fact of the matter is that in tournaments past it has been fine lines. We are talking about losing matches against Argentina, Portugal and Germany. We are not exactly getting knocked out by mug nations."