‘Expectations low? England are still expected to win’ - Stockwell

England's (left-right) Kyle Walker, Harry Kane and Danny Welbeck during a training session ahead of

England's (left-right) Kyle Walker, Harry Kane and Danny Welbeck during a training session ahead of tonight's World Cup opener against Tunisia. Photo: PA - Credit: PA

Former Ipswich Town stalwart Micky Stockwell says England’s players must cope with the weight of expectation heading into their World Cup opener against Tunisia tonight (7pm ko).

All of the Three Lions’ group games will shown on a big screen in the FanZone outside Portman Road over the coming days.

And Stockwell, who made more than 600 appearances for the Blues, will be joined by Town legend John Wark, who represented Scotland at the 1982 World Cup, in providing some live punditry for those in attendance.

“It’s not essential to win your first game, but I do think it helps calm everybody down,” said the 53-year-old.

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“In some ways, Belgium (Thursday, June 28 – 7pm) will be an easier game for England than the first two because Tunisia and Panama (Sunday, June 24 – 1pm) will probably park the bus.

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“People can talk about expectations of this England team being low as much as they like. Against Tunisia and Panama the expectation of the public and the media will be to win.

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“And if they do win those games, everyone will start saying ‘we’re going to win the World Cup’. That’s just how it is.

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“We’ve seen what that sort of expectation can do to players in that Iceland game two years ago. And in previous tournaments too. Let’s see how this group copes with that pressure this time around.”

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Stockwel, added: “It seems like Gareth Southgate has done a good job of preparing them mentally for that challenge, but we won’t truly know until the whistle blows.

“I do think we have got talented forward players that are capable of breaking down the lesser sides. I think our weakness is at centre-back.”

Meanwhile, Stockwell welcomed the start of a new era at Portman Road with the appointment of manager Paul Hurst from League One side Shrewsbury Town.

“I must admit I don’t know much about him,” he said. “But Bobby Robson wasn’t well known before he came to Ipswich and the rest, as they say, is history.

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“Everyone wants to see young players with big potential given a chance, well it’s the same with managers too. Everyone needs that first opportunity. Some take that chance and some don’t. Let’s hope Paul Hurst takes it with both hands and this is the start of exciting times.”

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