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The apparent poor state of English football at grass-roots and at youth level is ofter reported on. It is not often someone examines the future talent and states: ‘The future is bright.’
England just played Scotland and as expected it was excellent entertainment, and was hardly a ‘friendly’. It was the youthful nature of the squad that took my attention. For a long time the team-sheets have been dominated by players from the ‘Golden-Generation’, this is not to say that is a bad thing, the likes of Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, and John Terry wouldn’t exactly have been rejected by other top countries. Although it has left England in a difficult situation of having to phase out the fading stars and replace them.
When you have such a talented players like Cole occupying the left back slot it is easy to forget about developing the next generation of talent, that doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Now that England have a world class keeper again it is possible to build a team from a solid core. Phil Jones should develop into an excellent center back: big, commanding, and intelligent. Jack Wilshire is already an established England fixture and should be, as Gerrard has recently said, be England’s next captain. Then there is Tom Cleverly, an athletic player capable of linking the play and integrating lone strikers. Kyle Walker looks all but set to assume responsibilities from Glen Johnson sooner or later, although Johnson is better going forward Walker represents a more physical reliable defensive option. There is also an abundance of striker options, Rooney, Welbeck, Sturridge and now the youthful Ricky Lambert!
Of particular interest is the attacking talent currently nosing into the England set up. There has been almost a drought of creative, pacey, wingers with flair. Theo Walcott is unreliable at best, Downing, Milner, Young and Lennon are hardly world class. It is players like Oxelade-Chamberlain, Zaha and Sterling who have the potential to become England regulars in the future and excite the fans. Liverpool supporters will be expecting Sterling to kick on this season whilst Wilfred Zaha will grow at United and hopefully improve on the clumsy 15 minute camio he made against Scotland.
What is important about the new crop of players making their way into the England team is that they are all athletic, and intelligent. Jones, Wilshire, Oxelade-Chamberlain, Zaha and Sterling are hardly sluggish. Combining these players with experience will be key for Roy Hodgson in the immediate future. Characters like Baines, Gerrard, Lampard and Rooney will be important as the integration of the new talent replaces the old guard.
Another important feature of Roy Hodgson’s England is that he doesn’t seem afraid to pick the inform players. Ricky Lambert’s selection caused a stir amongst fans but someone who’s come good in the premier tire of English football is definitely good enough for the national side, even if he is over 30. What this does is adds uncertainty to the status of the ‘regulars’ which should help them better their form and prevent the need for players like Lambert receiving a call up (not that Lambert isn’t good enough).
Many people may not agree but I believe England have several players emerging who will ensure World Cup and European Championship football continues and they may, and hopefully, will show better than the previous ‘Golden’ lot ever did.
In Wilshire and co. we trust, the future is bright, and plays in a strip remarkably like one of the Germans…