In the season that leads up to a World Cup it’s inevitable that attentions will start to turn towards our national teams. While the likes of Spain, Brazil and Germany are among the favourites because of their highly talented squads with many players plying their trade in the Premier League, England are some way behind in terms of the quality of the football being played and also in terms of the strength and ability of the squad.
There have been several players who have come into the England squad ready to “carry the hopes of the nation” into the tournament – the likes of Wayne Rooney, Theo Walcott, Michael Owen and David Beckham have all carried that burden – there have also been many who have been fast-tracked into the side because of their impressive performances at club level. So far this season there have been several players who have emerged as highly-promising talents who could take England to the next level, but the question remains over whether these players are being put under too much pressure when it was only a few seasons ago that they were playing on park pitches with their friends, and now we’re talking about them stepping out in a stadium such as the Maracana to carry England to World Cup glory.
For many it is too much too soon, but for others you can genuinely see them in an England shirt for years to come, following in the footsteps of Beckham and Owen, and taking on the mantle when the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole call time on their international careers.
For instance, there is a lot of talk surrounding the ability of Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere. The midfielder has come into his club side and looked very, very good in the past couple of seasons, but there are still question marks over his best position – is it in a holding role, a creative position or off the front. Until those questions are answered, we’re never going to see just how good he is because Wilshere’s career could take an unfortunate hit by being played out of position and not using him where he is at the peak of his powers. You could say the same is true with Tom Cleverley, but at the moment Wilshere’s performances are at a much higher and more consistent level than the Manchester United man – it’s just injuries holding him back at present.
Andros Townsend is being touted as the next big thing in English football having made an impression at Tottenham, and also at international level since being handed his debut earlier this season. The question over Townsend is going to be over consistency, and his ability to cope when teams have found out more about him. There is no question that he was absolutely flying at the start of the season as Spurs looked to cope without Gareth Bale, but early stars-of-the-season soon fade once teams work out how to stop them. If Townsend is going to carry England in the future, he needs to be able to use more than just raw pace.
There are then questions over the future of England in terms of goals. At present, there are the likes of Rooney, Walcott, Daniel Sturridge, Rickie Lambert and Jermaine Defoe in the squad; with Andy Carroll among those waiting in the wings once he’s fit. The issue is, none of these players are scoring goals at a regular basis when they’re given the England shirt, and none of them are around the age of 20 where they’re just starting to show what they can do. England need a proven goal scorer with the ability of Alan Shearer, Teddy Sheringham, Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen or Andy Cole (who admittedly didn’t produce at international level) who can terrorise defences and produce that bit of magic just when it’s needed. There is currently too much reliance on Wayne Rooney to score England’s goals.
So while there are a number of top players in the English game, you wouldn’t necessarily say the future is bright right now. It might be flickering on and off like a bulb with a loose connection, but don’t expect to see England competing with Brazil, Spain or Germany for international titles for a few years yet. Unfortunately.
The editorial unit