Captain's Blog - Back to business

Lucas Neill reflects on the 5-0 success at Derby County a fortnight ago, the international break and the players coming back to fitness. There is also the small matter of Sunday's derby against Tottenham Hotspur and some words of comfort for England fans after the EURO 2008 exit against Croatia.

There are two ways to look at this international break. One way is that it was very important from a squad point of view to give players time to come back from injury to strengthen our options. But, another way is that after a best-ever win in the Premier League away to Derby the confidence was so high it meant we wanted to play our next game as soon as possible. Those players that did go away got positive results and did their countries proud which always helps at club level as you can feed off that positivity when you return to training.

It was a great team performance up at Pride Park, especially as it was one that could have been a potential banana skin with the depleted squad we went there with. They were all fantastic goals that will no doubt lift the players and fans. It was particularly nice to be able to reward the fans who travelled and to give them a bit of a party after all they went through last season and how great they have consistently been this season.

The result also puts us in a great position going into this game against the old enemy Tottenham! I obviously welcome their players, staff and fans as normal but, after last season's very memorable home match against them, we will be looking to exact some revenge and get one over them. It's a game we are all very excited about and no doubt fans and players alike can't wait for.

Tottenham have had an indifferent start to the season but, like West Ham last year, I don't think their league position reflects the quality of their squad and they have turned things around a bit in the last couple of results. However, this week should see the return of Dean Ashton, Scott Parker, Freddie Ljungberg, George McCartney and James Collins which means we go into this game with a lot stronger squad and more competition for places so I am confident of a positive result.

Despite injury and inconsistency, we still find ourselves in the top half of the table and two points off the target we had set ourselves for this stage in the season - two points that were arguably dropped at Bolton but there is no point dwelling on that now. This will be our toughest period of the season as far as games go and, from previous experience, if you have a good December and Christmas period, it usually puts you in a great position to push on and finish the season on a high.

No doubt England will be in mourning following the Croatia result. From a neutral perspective it was a very entertaining game but from an English point of view I am sure it was a rollercoaster of emotion ending in the ultimate disappointment. In a funny kind of way this could be the best thing to happen to England, and the worst for the rest of us. An experience like this will demand a positive response. Changes will be made, new faces brought in and, with the players channelling the pain and hurt of this campaign, I think England will be a real force and serious contenders to win the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Once again thank you for your loyal support, like you I am looking forward to an electric atmosphere and a fantastic derby!

Lucas Neill signature

Lucas Neill