Upson ready for Belarus battle
Defender looking to impress in Minsk
By Lewis Rutledge. Last Updated: October 13, 2008 7:49pm
Upson: Set to start
Matthew Upson is confident he can handle the pressure if called upon by Fabio Capello in Belarus.
Upson lined up alongside Rio Ferdinand in the heart of England's defence on Saturday against Kazakhstan.
He is expected to keep his place for Wednesday's World Cup qualifier after John Terry was again ruled out with a back injury.
Ashley Cole will also miss the clash in Minsk due to a hamstring problem but Upson believes the England squad is capable of coping with such absences and is looking to make the most of his chance.
Asked if he had done enough to keep his place, Upson replied on Sky Sports News: "I hope so. I gave it 100 per cent and I have been learning and focusing in the week and I think I am ready to step in.
"It is a blow to lose two players like that but I guess it is just a hazard of the game.
"That is what the squad is here for and we will have to pull together in Belarus."
Upson believes England are making progress under Capello and is targeting three points from a potentially tricky fixture against Belarus.
Victory would give England their most successful start to a World Cup qualifying campaign and Upson realises the importance of putting more pressure on the chasing teams in Group 6.
He said: "It is something the players are focusing on. A win would give us 12 points which would be a fantastic start and that is what we are trying to achieve.
"I think we are getting more of an understanding. There are certain areas we need to work on but it is a process of improving and I think we are on the right track."
England have won their first three competitive matches with Capello at the helm but Upson does not want the supporters to get too excited.
"I think it is natural for the fans to expect a lot from their team," admitted the West Ham defender. "I think we have one of the strongest groups of players in the world, and we have a fantastic stadium so there is going to be pressure and expectation.
"That is something we have to cope with. The players would ask probably not to get too carried away, as we are still in that process of building and learning."
Wayne Rooney has been in supreme form for England in recent games and Upson has been impressed by the 22-year-old.
Upson said: "He has had an unbelievable start to his career. People can forget just how young he is.
"The moment people expect a certain level of performance things can get tough but I think Wayne has coped with that brilliantly.
"I think Wayne will go from strength to strength."
Upson also backed Ashley Cole to respond in the right manner after being booed by his own fans for making a mistake against Kazakhstan.
Asked if such booing can affect the whole team, Upson answered: "I think it does in a way but it can be positive. It makes us pull together and we all encouraged Ash.
"It is their right (to boo). We would ask them for a bit of leniency and understanding when mistakes happen. As a group it is important that we look after each other.
"Part of being an elite sportsman is reacting well when you make mistakes and Ash knows that. He will cope with it mentally."