Gareth Barry has urged England’s players to aim for six points in the opening two games of the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign and believes the influence of Manchester City could be crucial in getting them.
Barry is joined in Fabio Capello’s England squad by Manchester City team-mates Adam Johnson, who is tipped to start on the wing against Bulgaria on Friday, and by Joe Hart, now his country’s first choice goalkeeper.
All three players are on a high at Eastlands where the money of owner Sheikh Mansour has transformed the club into title contenders in the Premier League. And the excitement of the transfer window, in which City spent more than 120 million pounds, has helped put memories of England’s miserable World Cup in the past.
Barry began the campaign in South Africa injured while Hart wasn’t selected to play a single game in the finals and Johnson failed to make the squad.
But as England prepare to begin their Euro 2012 campaign, Barry is confident the squad is ready to move on, having started the recovery process by beating Hungary in a friendly last month.
“We have to go up a level for the next two qualifiers,” Barry said.
“The manager used the last match to try a few things and blood a few youngsters and have a look at a couple of formations. But these games have come around so quickly.
“It is important the whole squad knows how important it is to get off to a good start. It is about getting results now, not performances. We need two positive results to set ourselves up for the rest of them.
“The players we have got in this squad, the manager has got options to play different formations if he wants to. I am not sure what he is thinking at the moment but I am confident the players are there to deliver results no matter what formation he wants to go with.
“I am as hungry to be involved as ever. I want to stay in this set-up and stay around for as long as possible. I want to try and get as many caps as I can and hopefully have some success with England too. I am looking forward to these two games.
“As an experienced member of the squad I have to recognise there are a lot of young players here who are going to need help at times. The lessons we have learned from the World Cup we have to try and use to help the young players and the team going forward.”
One of those young players requiring guidance is winger Johnson, hailed as one of England?s great hopes following a positive start to the season.
“He could make his mark,” Barry said. “He joined us in the middle of last season and came into the team full of confidence. He hasn’t stopped. He has kept improving. The more he plays at this level, the better he will become.
“Hopefully he can get a good run of games. I am confident if he does, his game will improve. The same is true of Joe Hart. Joe’s confidence is sky-high at the moment. He is performing very well for us at City and if he gets a run of games at this level he will go from strength to strength.”
Hart, who went into the World Cup as third choice, looks to be Capello’s first pick now that David James and Robert Green have been jettisoned and the City keeper is hopeful of a chance to establish himself for the long-term.
“I’d love the opportunity to do that but I’m just working hard and enjoying every game at the moment with Man City,” said Hart, who has overtaken Irish international Shay Given as first choice at Eastlands.
“We’ve got a few extra games in the Europa League as well and there are lots of opportunities to play and that is what I love doing. I’m enjoying it at the moment.
“Hopefully that will all tie together and I’ll try and get into the team on Friday. Everyone is looking forward to Friday because there are opportunities for people to set their marker and be involved in something special.
“It’s the same for Adam Johnson. He has really started the season well. He was gutted not to be involved in the summer but he has really come back firing,” he added.
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