We've said it before and I'm sure we'll say it again: "the future of English football looks bright" - but we've been wrong on countless occasions.

The supposed 'golden generation' of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen and John Terry are now all in the twilight of their footballing career without experiencing success on the international stage.

England haven't reached a semi-final of a major competition since the European Championships of 1996, where Germany knocked England out on penalties. It was the same old story in the European Championships of 2004, the World Cup of 2006 and the Euro 2012 last summer. 

Wayne Rooney hasn't shone the way his talent promised on the international stage, and tough tournaments in 2010 and 2012 have led to some doubts over his ability to lead the front line. 

Italy were the latest national side to trump England in a penalty shootout in June 2012, although it must be said that England's performances in that competition were promising. 

Roy Hodgson has shocked most pundits and doubters by guiding England to 4th place in the FIFA World Rankings. Despite all the troubles of recent years, the resignation of his predecessor Fabio Capello, the infamous John Terry saga and the devastation of Euro 2012, I believe that this time, England are on their way to challenging for the major trophies.

The current crop of English youngsters are very promising. In previous teams of yesteryear, there have been individual world class players, but I don't believe England have had a more well rounded group of talented individuals come out of the ranks as we do now. 

For instance, Joe Hart has proved himself to be a top class goalkeeper, despite some high-profile errors for Manchester City this season. Hart is a fantastic shot-stopper, a commanding presence in the back five and most importantly, a natural leader. 

At 25, Hart is already showing immense ability. Kyle Walker, Micah Richards and Nathaniel Clyne are three promising right-backs with blistering pace, a wicked cross and physical prowess. 

Micah Richards, who is often disregarded for international duty, has immense physical strength and is also capable of playing at centre-half, which is a valuable asset to any defender. Surely he can't continue to be overlooked in the future?

Kyle Walker has cemented his place as Tottenham Hotspur's first choice right-back, adding some goals to his game too which is often a rarity for full-backs. 

On the opposite flank, Leighton Baines has established himself as a top class all round footballer who is deadly from set-pieces, displaying composure on the ball week in, week out for a rapidly improving Everton side. 

Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill are just a few names on a list of hugely promising centre-backs who are not only capable of playing football from the back, they also have invaluable pace and strength. 

Manchester United's hard-fought draw at the Santiago Bernabeu was partly down to Phil Jones's heroics in midfield, marking the likes of Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria and the elusive and Cristiano Ronaldo out of the game, although the latter did score a sensational header to come back to haunt his former club. Jones's performance was epitomised by his last ditch, last minute block to keep Ronaldo at bay.

The next generation of English football are strongest in midfield, with the most difficult decision for Roy Hodgson being the inevitable selection dilemmas he'll face. 

Creative sparks in Tom Cleverley, Jack Wilshere and Josh McEachran offer Hodgson flair, ability and, in the case of Wilshere, world class talent. 

Wilshere could go on to become one of England's greatest players of all time, and the thought of the Arsenal star leading the midfield at Rio in 2014 is an exciting prospect. 

In the wide areas, Ashely Young, Wilfried Zaha, Raheem Sterling and Theo Walcott are all capable of supplying good crosses, pace, strength, and some goals. Every top team has players capable of scoring from all positions, which I believe this England generation has.

Upfront, England have options in Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck, with the latter having an unbelievable game against Real Madrid, scoring one and working his socks off.

Rooney still has a lot to offer, especially as a central striker where he can pick the ball up more and provide, on occasion, excellent service.

In Sturridge, England have a player who has not yet filled his undoubted potential, but his fantastic start to life at Anfield is perhaps an indication of what is to come. Sturridge is capable of beating players in one-on-ones, and has a fantastic armoury of finishes. His goal against Manchester City, where he fired past England teammate Hart, demonstrated flair, power, and most importantly, precision.

Welbeck has often been criticised for not scoring enough goals, but his strike against Real Madrid brought a 27 match drought to an end. Danny has demonstrated that he is more then capable of partnering someone upfront, and formed a brilliant partnership with Rooney towards the climax of the 2011/12 season. Welbeck will also give his everything for the cause, and talent and skill in abundance. 

I believe England have got a shot of bringing some silverware home in the next few years. Perhaps not the 2014 World Cup, given the brilliance and world dominance of Spain, but the European Championships of 2016, staged in France, and the World Cup of 2018 held in Russia, are far enough in advance for this England generation to gell and etch their names into the history books.

We need Hodgson and his assistant Gary Neville to have faith in the youth of England, whilst continuing to encourage the FA to invest in football academies across the nation. The Spanish and German teams should be what the FA are aspiring to - creating a team made-up of young, exciting talent, plying their trade in their home nations.

I for one am already excited for the World Cup next year, and eagerly await to see how the Three Lions do as they build for the future.

 

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Topics:
Internationals
Football
Phil Jones
Danny Welbeck
Daniel Sturridge
Wayne Rooney
Theo Walcott