England's got talent?
Were England's players good enough? Do we need to look to a younger breed? The panel have their say...
Last Updated: 11/07/10 11:48pm
England's World Cup dreams ended in tatters - and here at skysports.com we've asked some of our top pundits to pick through the wreckage.
Our Soccer Saturday panel - Matt Le Tissier, Paul Merson, Phil Thompson, Charlie Nicholas and Alan McInally - have taken time to reflect on England's disappointing efforts in South Africa, which ended after a 4-1 humbling by Germany in the last 16.
Thoughts are now turning to the future of the national team and how to ensure England are more competitive at major tournaments in the coming years.
We asked the panel whether the current crop of players were good enough, whether there is a new generation coming through and what needs to be done to improve the standard of football in England...
skysports.com: This England squad has been described as the 'Golden Generation', but are they not as good as we thought they were? Was this set of players good enough to do better at the World Cup?
CHARLIE: England's players are good enough to compete at this level. What I would say as a Scotsman looking at it from the outside is that people go on too much about this 'Golden Generation'. I played against some very fine English sides in 1982 and 1986 and they were as good as this current group. But since 1966, England have never got to a final. What gives everybody the divine right to say that you're going to get to another final because of these supposedly special players? Those players can only do it in the right system and until you find that system, then things are unfortunately going to stay the same for England.
MERSE: These are players we drool over week in, week out but the only thing I can think of is that they are playing for sides who dominate teams too easily. You can't say it's because there are too many foreign players because the Argentinians and Brazilians play in other leagues, other teams full of foreign players but they can still come together as a team. It has to be the gulf in the Premier League; look at Chelsea, they scored seven goals three times and eight goals once last season - even Barcelona didn't do that. It wouldn't happen in any other league in the world. Yet here are our top players shining like a beacon every week.
McINALLY: There's obviously a gulf in class between the teams in the Premier League, but I don't think it's a case of the players shining in the Premier League because it's easier. They're all very good players, but quite simply they're not as good as we think. It's not easy being a fantastic player but it's much harder being a fantastic team player and that's the difference I feel.
LE TISS: When you see the kind of wages they are earning you automatically go 'he's earning a £100,000 a week, he must be an amazing footballer', but that's not always the case. And it probably affects the players as well. When they're on that kind of money they probably believe they're better than they are sometimes as well.
THOMMO: There's no doubt that every single player underperformed at this tournament. People go on about the players not wearing the shirt with pride, but I think they did. I just think that the words 'England expects' are a millstone around our lad's necks. We all thought we could go there and win, but it's a heavy weight when you're expected to win every game comfortably and to play brilliantly individually and collectively. The problem we had and we've always had is being able to keep the ball. And we as fans we are just as much to blame. We like all the pretty football but as soon as the ball goes wide we're all screaming "get it in the box!" And that's what's expected of them.
MERSE: I think there's a problem with English players - you have to pay too much for them. Look at James Milner, a hard-working right winger, nothing special, yet Manchester City are going to have to pay £35million for him, when Barcelona have just signed David Villa for £34million. I'm not saying its his fault but that has to be a problem when you wonder why our players don't get a chance to play for these big clubs.
CHARLIE: Some of these guys have won Champions Leagues and have reached the top, top level of modern-day football. They've proved they can do it - but within the extreme pressures of international football they need a man who can understand them and relax them. If only they could have a modern-day Bobby Robson.
LE TISS: I also don't think we've ever had a squad with so many players in it who are not regulars for their club sides, including two of our four strikers. Peter Crouch wasn't a regular for Spurs all season and certainly Emile Heskey wasn't at Aston Villa. You could even argue that Jermain Defoe was a little bit in and out. I think it made Capello look a bit stupid because he said I'm only going to pick people who are playing week in, week out for their clubs. But he's obviously looked at it and thought 'well if I don't pick them what have I got left?' And that is a big, big worry for me.
skysports.com: Can you give the readers some hope for the future? Do you see a crop of players coming through to improve the side in the future?
CHARLIE: They're not coming through yet and there's a lot of work to be done in that area. England's biggest problem is still ball retention; going sideways and waiting for the moment to knock it forward and use it cleverly. They need to provide a springboard for their better players and maybe it will take a group of fairly ordinary youngsters to gel for the next two or three years and then take it from there.
LE TISS: When you look at the next generation coming through I'm just not sure there's the quantity there. We've got bits of quality here and there like Adam Johnson and in fact I was a bit surprised he was left out the squad. He was one of our more consistent performers at the back end of last season and yet he was left out for people like Shaun Wright-Phillips who couldn't get into Man City's team. But despite a few players like Johnson I just don't think there's the quantity there that we've had come through in recent years which is a bit of a shame and of course a worry too.
McINALLY: I agree it's tougher to reel of names than you think it would be. You look at the U21 team that lost in the final to Germany last year and there are a few good players in that team, but none that you would say are going to push Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, or Wayne Rooney out of the team. I think Jack Wilshere is a very clever boy and there was a case for taking him to South Africa. Jack Rodwell looks like he's going to be a superstar too, he's growing at a rate of knots and he's had a few injuries but I certainly think that a year down the road he'll be a lot stronger and he certainly has an opportunity. Another player that has caught my eye is Chris Smalling who joined Manchester United from Fulham. I remember seeing him against Burnley for Fulham in the League Cup and he stood out like a sore thumb. He was absolutely different class that day and I think he has every chance of becoming an England defender.
MERSE: I look at the young players we've got coming through and I think Rodwell and Wilshere, maybe the lad Johnson... but I can't reel you off 20. And as good as these kids may be, is Wilshire going to play every week at Arsenal? Rodwell might, but at the big clubs they won't - which means they are never going to be able to compete when it comes to a World Cup. We were talking about this team being the best we've ever had at a World Cup, but I look back at that team that started against Argentina back in 1998 and I don't see too many of this lot getting in that team, I really don't.
CHARLIE: England's Under-21's has always been successful and there's always been players coming through, even if there's no outstanding talent. We're all waiting for Walcott to kick in and Wilshere will become a very good player - but the question mark will always be there. Can they handle the pressure at international level? The more they play consistently for big clubs then their mentality will grow. The young players have to learn the right mentality. That's the key.
THOMMO: I think we've proved at the junior levels that we have got some good players because we always seem to compete, so we can't knock ourselves too much. People are always complaining that there are too many foreigners playing in our league, but I don't think anyone has an issue with the good ones; it's just there are too many average ones. Maybe we should be giving some of our younger lads who represent England and play in the lower leagues a chance in the Premier League instead. Our Under-21s got to the final of the European Championships last year so it's not all bad. Yes improvements need to be made, especially at academy level, but we are still competing. We just need to get a few of these younger players into our top flight teams to show what they can do.