June 27th 2010. A woeful day to be English. Humiliation by our arch enemies, the Germans, put the icing on yet another miserable performance at a major tournament. If the Three Lions carry on in the same vein, it won’t be too long before those who can remember an England victory in said tournaments become as rare as the Last Fighting Tommy’s are now. Like national treasures. So the future looked bleak last summer. The FA kept Capello on, a brainless decision based more on the size of the release clause in his contract than their faith in his ability to manage a team he can’t even communicate to. The man struggles to string the most simple of sentences together in English so the chances of him telling the team ‘to get out there and show some bloody pride and passion in the shirt’ is well beyond his capabilities. Still, a few retirements later and the whole country were buoyed again. So thanks go out to Messrs Carragher and Heskey for deciding enough was enough, allowing the whole of England to breathe one collective sigh of relief. Of the side that didn’t so much stall on that dreadful day in Bloemfontein, but crashed headfirst into a wall, Upson, James and Joe Cole haven’t been seen in a white shirt since, so at least that’s a start. And it finally looks as if Frank Lampard’s days have passed. What a pity. Playing the ‘where did Fat Frank disappear to during that game’ is one of my favourite post-England match activities. I’d say it could make a best-selling mystery board game. Rather like Cluedo. No-one seems to work out where Lampard goes during international matches.
Although England seem set to qualify for Euro 2012, it’s been a bumpy ride. Draws with Montenegro and Switzerland have left us needing a point in October, away to Montenegro, where you can guarantee the atmosphere will be nice and friendly for the English. Or not. Still, if England mess up from here, it will be a travesty. To say our group draw was slightly fortuitous would be somewhat of an understatement. The Swiss were supposed to represent our hardest challenge, but they have never been European heavyweights at the best of times and are currently undertaking a rebuilding process of their own. Our World Cup draw for 2012 has been just as kind. Old foes Poland no longer represent the threat they once did. Apparently someone is looking out for England after all, maybe we have a strategically placed agent at UEFA? Though going down the bribe route perhaps isn’t a wise move in the context of international football today…
So what of the furore over England’s new young pups? Are they the genuine thing? Or are we witnessing another bout of media hype slammed into overdrive when they so much as smell the scent of promise on the horizon of the England setup. Well, you have to say, that scent of promise is perhaps stronger than the weak cologne we’ve been used to recently. Ironically, a Scotsman is mainly to thank for potentially securing England’s future at the top of the world game in the future. Fergie has assembled a core of very talented youngsters at United, breeding them into mature footballers for club, and hopefully country. We all know of Mr Rooney’s talents, but more exciting is the hunger for the game he is currently showing in comparison to last year. His link up with Ashley Young can only benefit England as well. Throw Danny Welbeck into the mix, who is raw, but talented and you have a front three who have pace and skill in abundance, posing a genuine threat to opponents, rather than lumping in a target man, such as a Crouch or a Heskey to scrap with defenders. Phil Jones is the name on everyone’s lips at the moment. And rightly so. The hype surrounding him is believable, as the kid oozes class. Caution must be taken given he’s only made a handful of appearances for United, but if Sir Alex has no doubt that one day he’ll captain club and country, then I guess we can all agree. He doesn’t often get it wrong. The way he strides out of defence with a swagger and style not seen amongst your typically rugged English centre backs, reminds me of dare I say it, the Kaiser himself, Franz Beckenbauer. Now that is getting ahead of ourselves. His performances have taken the limelight away from a man who I think has been just as impressive, Chris Smalling. Playing out of position at right back, he looks to have made himself a new home, winning his first two England caps there last month, showing huge promise in the process. Maybe he could teach Glen Johnson what positional sense means. Then move on the art of defending itself. And whilst the last of Fergie’s young English guns, Tom Cleverley, looks a talent also, central midfield is a position England look well set in. Jack Wilshere, we’ve heard all about, and although his recent ankle problems are currently frustrating, he could go onto to become genuinely world-class.
Then there’s Ross Barkley at Everton. The papers are quoting a £30million move for him in January. Utter madness. Leave him where he is, progressing under David Moyes’ tutelage and England will have another Scouse superstar on their hands. Let’s not forget Josh McEachran either, who Andre Villas-Boas rates highly, as did predecessor Ancelotti before him. And what about Jack Rodwell, the forgotten man of England’s youngsters? Man United and Chelsea wanted him last summer and although his career has stalled recently, I’m sure he’ll be pushing hard for a squad place soon. There are some seriously good players listed there. Genuine reasons to get excited. And then there’s Andy Carroll, Anyone wondering why he was left out of this list, it was deliberate. He’s horribly overrated. It’s not his fault Liverpool decided to fork out the baffling £35million that they did, but the pressure seems to have really affected him, and now Suarez and Bellamy seem the preferred option upfront. Although he’s young, it appears he’s fast approaching the dreaded career crossroads. Despite being told to sort out his lifestyle by many experts including Capello himself, he hasn’t. Maybe Carroll prefers the taste of Jager to that of sweet success, but he needs to look at himself hard in the mirror if he wants a part in Engalnd’s promising future.
Is it enough? Are these the boys to lead us back to glory? Perhaps, though it is too early to judge, but if they are left to developed at their own pace, and not the media’s, there is a damn good chance of England ending all those years of hurt in the not too distant future.