England: Time to back the youth
The whole farcical Rio Ferdinand and England episode in the run up to the qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro highlighted something that has plagued England for too long: an obsession with looking back.
The fact the debate centred on whether or not Ferdinand pulling out of the England squad and travelled to the Middle East to be a TV pundit was a deliberate act of revenge towards the FA or an innocent PR disaster, glossed over a recurring theme. England seem frightened of moving into the future. Petrified of actually committing to the next 5 – 10 years and beyond, rather than only the next tournament.
There’s no denying Ferdinand has been in very good form since the turn of the year and integral to Man Utd improving the defensive record in the second half of this Premier League season. His form is worthy of an international call up, but Ferdinand is 34 and has to carefully nurse his fitness.
He made it be known he was available for International selection and his many backers in the press clamoured for his inclusion; some even suggested that, should England qualify, he should be a part of the World Cup squad.
By the time the 2014 World Cup in Brazil comes around, Ferdinand will be 35.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of how the England captaincy was taken off Ferdinand, his non- selection at Euro 2012 and his row with Ashley Cole, his withdraw from the England squad, explanation and subsequent pundit job was handled spectacularly badly.
Personally, I wouldn’t pick Ferdinand for England again; not because of the recent debacle, but for the same reason I wouldn’t consider John Terry, Scott Parker, Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry for selection: it’s time England moved on. That’s not to say anyone over 30 should be dismissed, indeed
I believe Steven Gerrard and Ashley Cole still have a role to play, though I think the World Cup should be their swan song. Euro 2012 was the ideal tournament to give many of England’s next crop tournament experience, but rather than be brave, England once again harped back to the so-called golden generation, but got the same result as always. As the mantra goes: if you keep doing what you’ve done, you’ll get the same results.
A decade ago, Germany tore up their system and started again. They are already seeing the benefits from the changes they implemented, but I doubt English football would ever have the bravery to do the same.
Also, the Premier League holds too much power to allow the FA to implement the type of changes that were in Germany. Add to that, the changes needed in philosophy at grass roots level with too many coaches and parents of young players mean that it would likely take longer for England to feel the benefit of change to the extent desired.
It’s not as though England don’t have any talented young players coming through, but the selection pool and technical level is not as big as it could be. England need to focus on the future and bed some of the best young players in, rather than keep looking at players some way past their peak.
If the so-called golden generation failed to win a tournament in their prime, why makes anyone think they can do it in their mid-thirties?
Rather than fear of failure and going for the safe option, I think it’s time to back the youth, believe in them and look forward, not back.
So, based on England’s reluctance to move on, here’s the squad I expect to be named for the World Cup 2014:
Hart, James, Seaman; Terry, Ferdinand, A. Cole, G. Neville, P. Neville, Adams, Carragher; Gerrard, Lampard, Parker, Barry, Milner, Carrick, Beckham, Cleverly; Rooney, Owen, Heskey, Welbeck.