It was only a year ago that the national team seemed written off for good. They had depressed the country more spectacularly than even the most pessimistic pundit could have predicted. They had so convincingly stamped on the hopes of the public that the only positive to be taken was the hard slap of the truth. Finally the press could no longer fool us. Next time there could be no hope, no hype and no massively overblown advertising campaigns.
In the aftermath of the national side’s World Cup elimination, there seemed to be a refreshing realisation. The old guard had blown their last shot at finally living up to their club level reputations. Young blood was needed but it would be a long time until a new, revitalised and world class England side would exist again. We could all turn our attention away from this endless process of unfounded hope and inevitable disappointment.
Now it seems like we may already be leaping back into this painful old cycle. It began with Jack Wilshere last season and now, with a wave of promising young English talent coming through it looks like everyone will be getting excited again very soon.
The crop of players now breaking into the England set-up is impressive. From Manchester United: Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Nathan Cleverley, Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young. From Liverpool: Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing. From Manchester City: Adam Johnson and Micah Richards. With Walker from Tottenham also in the mix and Wilshere already firmly established, this side could look very promising and very different, very soon.
Unfortunately the same problems will still apply to this generation as did to the last. The players, all of whom are playing at top clubs, will be expected to replicate their league form for their country. Under Capello they will be forced to play a game startlingly devoid of creativity and passion and, despite his initial claims of selection based on merit, will still find themselves in a system of favouritism. They will be played in all manner of positions and formations as Capello (and whoever succeeds him) tinkers constantly and by far the most important and crippling problem, they will have to labour under the intense pressure of an expectant nation. If only we could learn from the lessons of South Africa a year ago and follow the national side with more realistic expectations. Take the weight of the shoulders of these young players. If the seasoned professionals bottled it then what chance do our youngsters have?
If this does turn out to be another ‘golden generation’ then we must learn from the resounding failures of the last one. Starting by allowing them to prove their quality before we expect and demand it.
Do you see a bright future for England? Have we finally, definitely, heard the last of the Lampard-Gerrard era? Let me know what you think and follow me on at http://twitter.com/#!/philipwroe
Written by Philip-Wroe for FootballFanCast.com
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