Conor Coady is determined not to let standards slip as England look to put the seal on World Cup qualification in San Marino on Monday.
Gareth Southgate’s side need only a point against the winless minnows in Serravalle to rubber-stamp their place at next year’s tournament in Qatar.
It should prove a formality for a team bidding to wrap up an unbeaten qualifying campaign with an eighth win from 10 games and end the year on a high after reaching the Euro 2020 final.
Southgate is set to make a number of changes with Wolves defender Coady one of those who will come in.
“It has been an incredible last 12 months in terms of where we’ve been and what we’ve done,” said Coady, who was made available for media duties after being told he will earn his eighth cap.
“But we’ve got one more job to do – one more job as a team to make sure are right, to make sure we are professionals, to make sure we stick to our principles.
“Then we can look back on what we have done in the last year and really say it has been a good one.”
Coady has been a firm fixture in Southgate’s squads over the past year and last played in the 5-0 win in Andorra in October.
He recognises he could face tough competition to maintain that place over the next year but he is not looking too far ahead.
“If you are part of a squad that qualifies for a World Cup it is a massive achievement for anybody,” said the 28-year-old, who could also be a contender to captain the side in San Marino. “I look at it and I make sure I enjoy it as much as I can.
“Of course we all want to be in the World Cup squad, that goes without saying, but it is important we take each game as it comes and make sure we try to improve and support the people who aren’t playing.
“If you focus on what is behind you you lose what is in front of you. As footballers we understand there is always someone trying to take your place, we are playing at the highest level, but we have to keep on focusing on what we have to do.”
England head to San Marino after a 5-0 win over Albania at Wembley on Friday in which skipper Harry Kane responded to recent criticism of his form at club level with a first-half hat-trick.
Coady said: “He is a fantastic player and, more importantly, an incredible person.
“Criticism is something that comes all the time as footballers but we know how good he is and he is one of the best strikers in the world. It was a perfect hat-trick the other night. What a player he is.”
Another goalscorer against Albania, Coady’s fellow centre-back Harry Maguire, has also been in the firing line of late after some indifferent performances for Manchester United.
Coady said: “I think it is harsh but but I know how hard ‘Big H’ works on his game and how good he is.
“Criticism comes, especially when you are at one of the biggest clubs in the world. It is important we take it on the chin and move forward.
“The great thing about football is that it gives you an opportunity because the next day you are going to play again. I think that’s how we all look at it.”
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