Roy Hodgson insists England are not destined for "mediocrity" under his stewardship.
Just over two months after England's miserable World Cup exit, international football returns to Wembley next week and public interest and excitement could hardly be lower.
The Football Association is bracing itself for a record low crowd when Norway come to north London on Wednesday.
Facing the mass media for the first time on home soil since England bowed out of their winless campaign in Brazil, Hodgson tried to strike a note of optimism on Thursday.
There were no Churchillian speeches - Hodgson does not do those - but there was a tone of defiance from the England manager towards his critics.
FIFA may regard England as the 20th best team on the planet - worse than the likes of Greece, Bosnia, Costa Rica and Switzerland - but Hodgson still rates his squad among the top bracket of international sides.
"I'm being accused of leading England to being a second-rate country but I don't think we're heading for mediocrity," Hodgson said.
As Hodgson responded to questions about whether he thought he was "lucky" to still be in his job, he looked exceedingly glum.
The 67-year-old later snapped at one reporter. "Don't try to make me out to be some complete fool," he said.
Hodgson insisted he felt no "trepidation" about having one last go at ending England's near 50-year trophy drought, and said he had complete faith in the group of players who emerged towards the end of the World Cup qualifying campaign.
The likes of Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley and Daniel Sturridge lack the experience of Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, who had 327 caps between them, but all is not lost, according to the national coach.
"I think there's great potential, and there's hope," Hodgson said.
"I can't wave the magic wand and bring back a leader in defence, with one or two in midfield and one or two up front.
"I can't replicate it because it doesn't exist.
"But I think in 2016 we will see a good England team."
With Barkley and Adam Lallana out through injury, Hodgson will place his immediate trust in a man he referred to as "The Ginger Pirlo" on Thursday.
Jack Colback, who moved to Newcastle from Sunderland this summer, has rarely been mentioned as a possible England international, but he has been called up and could face Norway on Wednesday or Switzerland in the first European Championship qualifier five days later.
"He is newer on our radar, but for Newcastle in the games I have seen he is very assured, he has a good left foot," Hodgson said.
"His work rate and understanding of the game is good."
When asked whether he had the potential to be as good as the Italian midfielder who has tormented England at the last two major tournaments, Hodgson did not appear too confident.
"I think that would be a hard ask," Hodgson said with a smile.
Colback was one of four uncapped players named in a squad captained by Wayne Rooney.
Twelve are out through injury, including Luke Shaw, Glen Johnson, Kieran Gibbs, Chris Smalling and Jon Flanagan.
Hodgson has, therefore, picked Tottenham's Danny Rose and Arsenal defender Calum Chambers for the first time.
Aston Villa's uncapped midfielder Fabian Delph has also been included while Andros Townsend returns to the fold after missing the World Cup through injury.
The Tottenham midfielder is one of a number of players who could be subject of a transfer bid before Monday's 11pm deadline.
Hodgson would appreciate it if all clubs finished their dealings before the squad meets on Sunday night in Watford, though.
"The clubs will have to fit in with us," Hodgson said.
"The clubs have had since the last game of (last season) to sign any players."
Hodgson revealed team psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters will be "around" the squad during the international break even though he also has commitments with Liverpool.
"He will be available to us, not in the same way that he was available to us during the World Cup when he was on tap, but he will stay with us," Hodgson said.