Every England managerial role comes complete with a debilitating dose of expectation and Gareth Southgate is under immediate pressure on his debut as England U21 boss.
One reason is that he hasn’t poked and prodded his way around a dugout since 2009 and wasn’t a huge success back then at Middlesbrough, causing some to query whether he was the best candidate.
Also not helpful to Southgate was ridiculed predecessor Stuart Pearce’s habit of making qualifying for the European U21 Championship seem as easy as he made competing at the last edition look fiendishly difficult.
Pearce earned the Young Lions an invite to the party at the last four odd-numbered summers – albeit returning home before the slow dances commenced at the last two – a feat that no other nation could rival.
Southgate needn’t be too terrified though. He has been parachuted into a deliciously fright-free group with Lithuania, Finland, Wales, Moldova and San Marino and starts against Moldova at the Madejski Stadium.
The odds illustrate the simplicity of that particular task, with England U21 ever so slight favourites at 1/16, the draw a 9/1 shot and the instant dismissal-inviting outcome of an away win rated at 17/1.
The value bet is under 3.5 goals at an alluring shade of 10/11. It might appear a bold selection given the Young Lions’ recent 6-0 savaging of Scotland when asked to impress Roy Hodgson, but the stats support that approach.
You can be fairly confident of Moldova U21 helping the cause by contributing nil, as England pieced together ten straight clean sheets either side of their European U21 Championship aberration.
Further assistance is provided by the fact that Moldova’s nippers aren’t quite as concession-happy as their senior squad.
They’ve only leaked once across their first two games against Wales and San Marino and England’s kids haven’t fired more than two past them in three prior attempts.