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NextGen vs GoldenGen: England's biggest dilemma

Sriram Ilango
2.19K   //    30 Mar 2013, 14:23 IST

It is really hard to argue why England have failed to qualify past the quarterfinals in all the major competitions for the past 2 decades or so. Given the fact that they had Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney at their disposal, they should have at the least won a single major event. But, they haven’t.

These are not overrated or over performing players. They are proven, accomplished champions in their own right. They have beaten the best in club level competitions. But, they never clicked at international level.

England’s GoldenGen – Overrated?

They should have been remembered for lifting the World Cup in 2006 or winning the Euros at 2008 (for which they didn’t even qualify) but the world will now always remember them as the team which was over-hyped.

What is done is done. After each and every major tournament exit, there are cries in England for an overall change in the setup. There is no shortage for the talent that England produces but how can you just go on and replace names like Gerrard, Lampard and Ferdinand?

It has been evident that the “Golden Generation” has struggled for success, so what is the point in giving them chance after chance? In the 2006 World Cup, only 6 players with less than 10 caps for England were included in the squad. This trend continued for some time.

Then came Roy Hodgson and Euro 2012. People expected massive changes. What we got was 8 players with 10 or less caps for England in place of 6 players. No major change was made other than the inclusion of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. As expected, the team crashed out of the tournament in penalties.

But, since then Roy Hodgson has called up a staggering 26 players with less than 10 caps for various qualifiers and friendlies. This is a clear indication that Roy wants to do something differently. Assuming that the GoldenGen will still make the core of the 2014 World Cups, the move by Roy will surely help the team in the 2016 Euros.

Germany’s Euro 2008 was a great success. Although they didn’t win the cup, they performed really well and lost in the finals to Spain who were a much better team. But, Joachim Loew made a choice that surprised everyone. He knew that the Euro 08′ squad was good but not young. So, he took 13 players who had less than 10 caps for Germany to the 2010 World Cup. Out of these 13, 10 were part of the U-19 World Cup winning squad of 2009. England were second to Germany in the same U-19 World Cup of 2009. From that squad, 2 players were selected for the 2010 World Cup. This shows the entire story doesn’t it?

So, if Roy Hodgson’s team needs to make it big in the World Cup in 2014, he needs to trust his youth. So, is England’s NextGen really better than the GoldenGen? I would say so. Why? Probably because the last time England U-21 side conceded a goal, Fabio Capello was still in charge of England.


Let us see how the NextGen of England’s stars stack up against the GoldenGen

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart vs Robert Green/David James

Joe Hart is easily the best goalie that England has produced in 20 years. There is no arguing in here. But, the point is, even with Hart in the squad for 2010 World Cup, England still fielded Robert Green as their No.1. It took them more than four years to realize that Hart is the best keeper in the country.

That is the type of obsession that England has had over the past years with the Golden Generation.

Defenders: Johnson-Terry-Ferdinand-Cole vs Walker-Smalling-Jones-Baines

Walker is still unproven and it would take some time for him to establish himself in the team. Terry is retired and Ferdinand may or may nor play for England again. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have proved their worth for Manchester United and it is only a matter of few years before they become the first choice centre-backs for their club. So there is no point in arguing otherwise. Ryan Shawcross, Gary Cahill and others might provide good backup for these two.

Then you have the left-back corundum. On one hand, you have a player who is still 31 and has more than 100 caps for his nation and is still very good. On the other hand, you have a player who is arguably one of the best left-backs in the league and brings a lot more than just defending to the table. Who will you choose? There is no one right answer to the question. But, if it were up to me, I would go with Leighton Baines.

Deep lying Midfielders: Carrick – Lampard vs Cleverley – Wilshere

Cleverley has been ever present in any squad that Hodgson puts up these days. Lampard’s quality cannot be argued. I wonder if Michael Carrick was ever part of the GoldenGen given the fact that he has only 27 caps to his name. Barry too is very good in holding the ball.

By the looks of it, England will play a 4-2-3-1 in the coming years. So, what you need is two players who can hold up play and spray out the balls. If Hodgson decides to field Cleverley, the other spot will be automatically given to Lampard. If Wilshere is available for selection, he could grab Cleverley’s place.

The Carrick – Lampard combination too could work and selecting the midfield two should give Hodgson a headache.

Attacking Midfielders: Milner – Gerrard- Young vs Sterling – Ox – Zaha

The Sterling – Ox – Zaha trio will be a delight to watch. They provide much better attacking options upfront and their pace is just scintillating to watch. However, they cannot be just included into the squad given their lack of experience. But, trusting Milner and Young once again could be a vital mistake if they fail. So, who else than Milner and Young? You have Henderson, Adam Johnson and Aaron Lennon who are equally prone to poor performances.

Gerrard’s place is certain. So, if he plays in the hole behind the striker and assuming Young starts on the left, Ox could start on the right which is exactly the formation England fielded in the 2012 Euros. Else, Danny Welbeck could start on the left in place of Ox-Chamberlain.

The Sterling – Ox – Zaha combination could give opponents a run for their money in the 2016 Euros.

Strikers: Wayne Rooney vs Theo Walcott / Danny Welbeck / Andy Caroll

Wayne Rooney is still the only member of GoldenGen who is still in his prime. So, he will start. But, if Theo Walcott continues to perform well in the striking department for Arsenal, he could be given a run once or twice for England.

Welbeck could start in the wings for England like he does for Manchester United. As for Andy Carroll, I’m not quiet so sure he’d fit in.

This is how England could possibly line-up in the 2014 World Cup:

England's possible 2014 lineup

England’s possible 2014 lineup

And, this is what they might look up in 2016, which is very formidable, indeed.

England's possible side in 2016

England’s possible side in 2016

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Sriram Ilango
I am neither clever nor gifted. I am only very, very curious.
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