Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand has questioned the England national team's identity, in the build-up to tomorrow night's friendly against Scotland at Wembley.
The 34-year-old centre-back believes the Three Lions lack a coherent style and national blueprint that can be seen with other countries like current world and European champions Spain, Italy and Brazil.
Ferdinand was quick to point out that no blame should be laid at the door of Roy Hodgson, adding that the root of the problem began long before his appointment by the Football Association a little over a year ago.
"What is our identity?" Ferdinand is quoted by Sky Sports. "I've said that on Twitter I don't know how many times and people come back and say, 'What are you talking about?' But what is our identity?
"We started to see something when Glenn Hoddle was in charge, (there was) a bit of an identity then, free-flowing football and you would say we were starting to get an idea of the pattern of what he wanted to implement in the team.
"Since then I don't think we've actually really seen an identity, where you could say, 'that's an England team,' where you look at the U21s and go, 'that's an England team'."
The former England captain - who retired from international duty towards the end of last season with 81 caps to his name - feels that a much more cohesive approach to training and player development needs to be applied if the senior team is to have any chance of a brighter future.
"If all the names were taken off the back of the shirts and the colours were changed, you couldn't go in there and say, 'that's an England team, that's our identity, that's the way we play'," he added.
"That's from the U16s right up to the senior team. Whereas you look at an Italian team, a Dutch team, a Spanish team, a German team or a Brazilian team, without seeing the names on the shirts, you would identify them because they're working from a script.
"You could put an U16 lad into the senior Spanish team or Italian team, he might not have the attributes in terms of physique and speed to be able to deal with it, but positionally I'm sure he'd know what to do because that's what they're taught, day in, day out.
"I just don't think you see that connection between our (senior) team and the U21s, or the U17s and the U20s team and the senior team, and I think that doesn't bode well for the England team."
Having made his England debut in 1997, Ferdinand has been around long enough to know what he's talking about when it comes to the international set-up, and suggests that strong leadership and long-term planning is the only way to solve the country's football identity crisis.
"It's going to take someone to come and grab it by the scruff of the neck and say: 'This is what we're going to do and we're going to take 10 years to do it'.
"We might not qualify for a World Cup or a European Championship but I would rather not qualify for one or two tournaments knowing that in 10 years' time we will have an identity that everyone can identify with and say: 'yes, that's us', and be proud of."
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