England’s youngsters will forever be tainted by failure, says Alex Tyndall:
One by one, the English “golden generation” is being put out to stud. One by one, the poster boys for a generation of English international mediocrity are shuffling down the tunnel, into a sharp grey suit and onto the pundit’s couch.
Since the 2002 World Cup, international tournaments have been greeted almost universally by the English faithful with bullish optimism followed quickly by flabbergasted despair. Some of the best English players ever to grace the sport have faced up to the challenge of international competition and been found wanting. This is a legacy of disappointment that threatens to be bequeathed directly to the new talent emerging in the international ranks.
England had eight players making an appearance on the 15th who have never been to a World Cup before. In 2018, these could be the players forming the backbone of an England side. I wonder how much hungrier to perform and impress they could have been if their first World Cup campaign had ended in disappointment. Their qualification charge for 2018 could have been their chance to put the frustrations of a generation to bed and make their mark as a new, fresh England squad.
Instead what I find is a group of undeniably talented youngsters becoming part of the same rumbling frustration that has haunted England’s international fortunes for years, the new blood being paraded alongside the last-chance veterans of years of disappointments.
In all likelihood this will be the last World Cup campaign for Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and, if he ends up on the plane, Ashley Cole. They are undeniably among the greats to wear the England shirt but there is no room for nostalgia in football. I simply worry that the England jaunt to Rio next year will be a wistful look back at what might have been rather than a more hopeful sight of things to come.
The World Cup will provide valuable experience, says Rob Snell
Had England failed to record back-to-back victories in their final World Cup qualifiers last week then Roy Hodgson would have had much more to worry about than the fallout from an ill-judged remark about monkeys. Instead, relief swept through the nation: England are going to Brazil next summer. Why then, is there still a pocket of doom-mongers think it would be better for our long-term prospects if we stayed at home?
The first result of a failure to qualify would have been the sacking of Roy Hodgson. Although not a man associated with much flair or panache strategically, the fact remains that Hodgson is still unbeaten in competitive games with England. More importantly, though, Hodgson has actually phased in a number of younger players, just not in the abrupt manner that saw Andre Villas-Boas lose the dressing room at Chelsea: his hybrid of youth and experience is only going to benefit the younger players in the longer term, not hold them back.
The most frequent criticism of England is that we “need to be more like Spain”. The English stereotype, they say, is an outdated and inferior breed on the international scene and small, technical players who can play neat passing triangles are the way forward. It is better, they think, for England to avoid the usual quarter-final heartbreak and to set ourselves a longer term target, namely Qatar 2022. This is completely wrong on two levels.
Firstly, the argument that missing out on Brazil would have triggered the footballing revolution that England is crying out for is a total overstatement – evidence suggests that the need for change and development has already been recognized, with the recently appointed FA Commission being one sign that the tide is changing.
But if we try to alter our whole dynamic and make ourselves look like Spain or Germany then we will always be one step behind and our long-term prospects will be no better. By all means, incorporate different cultures into our modern game, but completely overhauling our system will also destroy the positive and uniquely English qualities that we so pride.
Indeed, the argument that England has a lack of talent coming through the ranks is largely a fallacy, with Jack Wilshere, Phil Jones, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kyle Walker and most recently Andros Townsend emerging talents. There are never going to be 11 new world class players emerging every season, and there doesn’t need to be. What these young players need is experience, and that is where the argument that England would be better off staying at home this summer falls down completely.
Long-term excellence can only be achieved with shorter term improvements, and it doesn’t take a genius to realise that it’s much more beneficial for the England players to be playing in a stadium next to the Copacabana beach this summer rather than sunbathing on it.