England's Golden Generation vs. the Current Crop - comparing the squads
For fans of the England national football team, the last few years have been exciting indeed. The Three Lions have experienced a true renaissance under manager Gareth Southgate, reaching the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup and the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League, and Southgate’s young, vibrant team now go into next summer’s European Championships as one of the favourites to win the tournament.
England fans should proceed with caution, though; around fifteen years ago another England side – usually known as ‘The Golden Generation’ – emerged with plenty of talent and promise and went into a handful of major tournaments (Euro 2004, World Cup 2006, World Cup 2010) amongst the favourites to win, only to fall short.
But have Southgate’s modern-day England side now surpassed their Golden Generation counterparts? We compare the two sides here.
Goalkeepers: Paul Robinson, David James, Robert Green vs. Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope, Tom Heaton
One area in which the Golden Generation struggled was between the sticks; Sven-Goran Eriksson’s side never had a truly world-class goalkeeper, and Fabio Capello’s later Golden Generation side narrowly missed out on the services of Joe Hart, who was genuinely great in his early England tenure.
David James, then of West Ham and Manchester City, was a solid shot-stopper and performed well in Euro 2004, while Paul Robinson of Tottenham was first choice at the 2006 World Cup, but neither keeper was outstanding, and Robinson infamously made a major gaffe against Croatia in a qualifier for Euro 2008.
Fabio Capello’s first choice going into the 2010 World Cup was Robert Green, but the West Ham keeper made a huge error in England’s opening match against the USA – letting Clint Dempsey’s shot squirm through his fingers – and was subsequently dropped in favour of James for the remainder of the tournament.
Southgate, meanwhile, has used Jordan Pickford of Everton as his first choice keeper since November 2017, and while his club form has been questionable at times, he’s been largely excellent for England. His penalty save from Carlos Bacca helped the Three Lions to win their first penalty shootout in over 20 years against Colombia in the 2018 World Cup, and his brilliant distribution has contributed to some of England’s best goals in recent games.
Nick Pope and Tom Heaton are largely unproven as deputies, but there’s perhaps an argument to be made that both men are superior to Green and Robinson, and there’s no doubt that Pickford is better than all three of the Golden Generation’s keepers.
Advantage: The Current Crop