In the last decade or more, England fans and the media have had high hopes for their national side.
The ‘Golden Generation’ was meant to lead England to their first piece of international competition since Geoff Hurst’s hat trick won England the Jules Rimet Trophy on home turf in 1966.
Now all nearly all the members of that famous Golden Generation are into their 30s, such as Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerarrad, and the current crop coming through are being doubted and considered to not posses the quality that the generation before them had, support and hopes for the England national side are at an all time low.
Some more cynical fans even feel England may not make the World Cup finals in Brazil next summer.
Rio Ferdinand (34) and John Terry (32) have both recently retired from international football. While Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka have been the recent centre-back pairing that’s been used by Roy Hodgson, neither of the two men quite compare to their predecessors.
Last night in the Manchester United and Chelsea fixture at Old Trafford, Ferdinand and Terry both showed why they are still the two best centre-backs in England.
Neither of the two men set a foot wrong last night. Ferdinand doesn’t look like he’s lost an inch of that pace that’s made him such a nightmare for strikers to get past, and Terry’s positional play is just as precise as it was during Mourinho’s first spell as Chelsea manager.
Regardless of the circumstances involving Terry and the Ferdinand family I think these two men are mature enough and care for their country enough to put their differences aside when in a team together. They are both clever enough to know they are England’s best centre-back pairing.
Ashley Cole is another aged 32. For the past decade he has easily been the best left back in England, maybe even in the world. Leighton Baines is pushing him harder for his place than he’s even been pushed, but I still think for defensive qualities there is no topping Cole.
In the middle there’s Frank Lampard, who is now 35, yet has started each of Chelsea’s three Premier League games this season.
His time at Chelsea came in doubt when Andre Villas-Boas tried to flush out the old guard, but time and time again this man has popped up with important goals when played. If he played until he was 40, he’d still score at least 10 league goals a season.
Steven Gerrard, now 33, has just been given a new contract by Liverpool to let their greatest ever player finish his career with them.
He’s suggested that Brazil 2014 may be his final flash for England, and what a better way to bow out than leading his country to the biggest surprise of all? Season after season Gerrard comes back and gives his all. There hasn’t been a better midfielder to ever play in the Premier League than this man, even now.
Michael Carrick, who is 32 now, has been a man that’s been looked over most of his career by the national side. When you look at his list of medals it seems almost impossible that he could go unnoticed. Last season his quality finally came to the forefront - finishing in the PFA team of the year and as Manchester United's Player of the Year.
Carrick could well have been the man that was needed to bridge the gap between Lampard and Gerrard all these years.
While we as fans want to see the emergence of young players into the first team to give fresh hope to the side, it just hasn’t been happening lately.
Jack Wilshere is the brightest young star in English football at the moment. If Arsenal can keep him fit and get the best out of him he could be entering the World Cup with buckets of confidence. While Tom Cleverley and Jordan Henderson are two very talented young men, neither of them seems to have developed the ability to change a game like Lampard or Gerrard can yet.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. England do have some brilliant young players like Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge, who will be keeping an eye on each other’s goal tally come the end of the season.
Theo Walcott seems to be closer to showing his full potential than ever, but it will be Wayne Rooney who will lead the line all being well. His performance last night against Chelsea considering the circumstances and who he was playing against just showed why he is still England’s best footballer.
If I were Roy Hodgson I would be looking at how Chelsea’s old guard came back out of the shadows and into the spine of the team when Villas-Boas was sacked and proved their worth by guiding Chelsea to Champions League glory.
And if I were Roy Hodgson I would be on the phone to Ferdinand and Terry begging them to come back into the England fold.
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