I was listening to The Times’ The Game football podcast today and it was mentioned that Scott Parker and DJ Campbell were the only English players to score in last weekends round of Premier League matches. This prompted discussion about where England’s next generation of players were coming from.
I have heard many people bemoan the lack of young English players coming through and I have to say I completely disagree. I remember in around the time Kevin Keegan was manager there was a lot of concern about where the next generation were coming from and how few players were breaking through. Just a few years later Ashley Cole and Wayne Rooney had emerged. Lampard and Gerrard had become world class attacking midfielders. Rio Ferdinand managed to get errors out of his game and John Terry stopped getting in night club brawls and started being one of the best centre backs in the world.
So to a great extent I think a lot of this talk that there is no next generation is just doom-mongering and people wanting to wallow in England’s uselessness following the dire performance in South Africa. Because the notion that there is no talent out there is just plain inaccurate because there is a great deal of young English players breaking through into Premier League sides at the moment. Plenty of attention has been lavished on Rodwell, Hart, Wilshire, Johnson and Gibbs who all look excellent but they are not the only good young players coming through.
At Blackburn Phil Jones has been very impressive at both centre back and defensive midfield and in Sam Allerdyce has a manager that will be able to train him well in the art of defending and organisation. At Chelsea Danny Sturridge is a player that has slipped under the media radar a bit of lately. He has great pace and the most valuable ability in a striker to score goals. Very few young players have the ability to come in to a team and immediately start scoring. But Sturridge has confidence and composure to take the chances that come his way and touch of arrogance which is never a bad thing in a sportsman.
Elsewhere Jorden Henderson has been starting regularly for Sunderland and earning good reviews. Danny Rose at Tottenham showed his potential with his wonder-goal against Arsenal last season. At Villa Kieran Clark and Marc Albrighton have been given chances at the start of the season. Andy Carroll looks the archetypal target man at Newcastle and Chris Smalling broke through at Fulham last season and earned a move to Manchester United. Where he is bound to improve with the benefit of learning from two of the best in the form of Vidic and Ferdinand.
As well as this young talent the likes of Milner, Walcott, Ashley Young and of course Wayne Rooney will all be under thirty at the next World Cup. Where in my view England defiantly have the potential to have a strong team.
England XI 2014
Gosling (24) Smalling (24) Cahill (28) Gibbs (24)
Rodwell (23) Wilshire (22)
Subs: Foster, Milner, Walcott, Carroll, Davies, Eastmond, Gerrard.
Looking into the crystal ball I could see a team like the above performing well with a commanding and experienced Hart in goal. Two marauding full backs in Gosling and Gibbs. Gary Cahill being dominating in the air and Smalling mopping up behind. Phil Jones would hold and drop into the back line when necessary. The two jacks would boss the midfield with Rodwell playing a box to box role and Wilshire as the play-maker.
Johnson would provide the creativity from out wide and Sturridge would play a second striker role similar to Nicolas Anelka at Chelsea or Thomas Muller for Germany linking up dangerously with the now veteran Rooney. Its even possible to see the someone of Gerrard adapting their game a la Giggs or Scholes into a deep lying playmaker or even a useful defensive midfielder if he learnt a bit of tactical discipline.
Of course not every player realises there potential and no one knows what will happen in the next four years. But it isn’t all bad for English football. Ignore the doom mongers there are some good young players out there.
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