Whisper it quietly, but England’s golden generation is coming of age.
As we look towards this summer’s European Championship in the eastern bloc, the England football team looks more disorganised and segmented than ever before. No manager in place, an aging Paul Scholes back in contention and the club-side fractions manifesting themselves, it appears to be a worse summer since David Seaman decided to practice his yoga just as Ronaldinho took aim in 2002.
So let’s look beyond the 2012 Euros and focus on the England for tomorrow. Step forward our youth sides. Current England youngster awards have included making an appearance in the 2009 under-17 under-19 and under- 21 finals. In charge of youth development is as English as jellied eels and Marmite. John Peacock, Stuart Pearce and Noel Blake have been orchestrating a vast, and continued improvement in recent years. The lack of respect shown from the old regime (including Fabio Capello going on holiday instead of taking in the Under-19 final) could have inadvertently improved the teams’ togetherness, leading to the players of tomorrow forming a close bond, akin to club sides like Ajax and Barcelona — something the current crop of players do not have.
With the youngsters taking the recent plaudits, which the full XI could only crave, which players will build England’s future ‘Golden Generation’? The pool is teeming with the grifted, grafters, passion, pace and, above all, finding the uneasy balance between fame and level headedness. Football fans will have their own favourites, but most lists would include Tom Cleverley, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ross Barkley, Steven Caulker, Jack Rodwell, Jack Wilshere, Nathan Clyne, Danny Welbeck, Kyle Walker, Daniel Sturridge, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. That list would give any manager a headache to pick from. The core and spine of the side coming from the top Premier League, now accustomed to the riggers of top flight football, both in domestic and in European club competitions.
These talents could follow in the footsteps of seasoned campaigners like Joe Hart, James Milner, Gary Cahill, Gareth Barry and of course, one Wayne ‘Wildcard’ Rooney. A strong manager and coaching staff would salivate at the thought of having this squad at their disposal. Brazil 2014 should be the chance to unleash these players onto the international scene, to pit their skills against the best in the world in the Samba heat. Germany shocked the world, and maybe even the DFB, by the performances of their untried and untested young side in 2010. Their third place finish was the perfect reward for a federation who allowed youth to be the core of their side. The likes of Ozil, Muller, Badstuber, Kroos and Khedira played without trepidation and oozed creativity and more importantly, self-confidence, dispatching pre-tournament favourites like Argentina and England — all masterminded by a young manager himself, Joachim Low, who first coached the national team aged just 45. Surely this is the blueprint the English FA should be copying?
Does English history dictate that passion and youth could be the springboard to success? Lets turn our clocks back to Italy 1990. England had just squeezed through to the tournament finals with the bloodied Terry Butcher ensuring England advanced with a 0-0 draw in Sweden. The English press rubbished the team’s chances from the start, especially as they were drawn in the infamous ‘Group of Death’. Under pressure Bobby Robson, fresh from a dreadful Euro 1988 campaign, picked a team of hard working, passionate players, with a hint of youth. The experienced quota was filled by the likes of Butcher and Shilton, Robson and Lineker, with the ‘footballing professor’ intertwining them with untried younger players Platt, Walker and Wright. Oh and of course, the man with the talent of Maradona but the brains of Norman Wisdom, one Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne. The heartbreaking defeat against the Germans vindicated Bobby Robson’s roll of the dice. Since then — arguably 1996 aside — the same players have constantly let fans down. When is it one chance too many?
With the evidence presented, surely it is time to put out to stud the perennial failures who have tended to hog the headlines for their club sides and off field antics, rather then bringing glory and respect to the three lion badges Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, I give you generation who didn’t live up to the hype…Gerrard, Lampard, Cole, Terry and Ferdinand.
So whisper it quietly, but it could be viva l’anglais en Paris in 2016.