Sam Allardyce moved to show his strength on his first day as England manager as the Three Lions shelved plans to hold a Wembley friendly.
The Football Association had held advanced discussions with possible opponents for September 1, with Croatia and the Czech Republic both mooted, and were ready at one stage to sign off on the match before announcing Roy Hodgson’s successor.
But Allardyce, who was appointed on Friday and held a first press conference yesterday, has seemingly had some early influence on the schedule.
Rather than preparing for a welcome match at the national stadium, he will conduct additional training sessions with his squad at St George’s Park ahead of their opening World Cup qualifier in Slovakia on September 4.
That means his first game at Wembley will be against Malta on October 8, part of a double header that also sees England travel to Slovenia three days later.
Allardyce believes he is tough enough to deal with the England job and the move to cancel the friendly is an early example of his influence.
He had already declared “bring it on” and dismissed suggestions the job was a poisoned chalice.
Allardyce replaced Hodgson after the former manager quit following England’s calamitous Euro 2016 campaign, where they were dumped out of the competition by Iceland.
England also failed to get out of the group at the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 and have not won a major competition since lifting the World Cup 50 years ago.
But Allardyce, who left Sunderland last week after keeping them in the Premier League last season, is not scared of the job.
He said: “Bring it on, hey lads. I’m hardened over many, many years. You toughen yourself for whatever job you take. You take the good with the bad, otherwise you don’t do it – don’t bother.
“I am here because I want to be here, because I want the challenge, I’m here because I think I can make the team better and I think I’m tough enough to take it.
“People see me as being able to turn a club around very quickly and I suppose that comes with taking West Ham up, saving Blackburn Rovers and now saving Sunderland. I consider myself to be much more than that, but that is the sort of label I’ve been left with.
“I can turn things around pretty quickly and get amongst teams to try to create a successful journey and a successful journey starts with all of us pulling together.”