This week the English national team jetted off to Portugal to prepare for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil this summer.
With a new era ushered in during qualifying, there won’t be too many familiar faces on that plane to the Algarve for an intense training camp in the Iberian heat. The so called “golden generation” have finally fallen by the wayside.
Their chance of glory and replicating the success of Bobby Moore and co. from 1966 is gone. From 2004 when they were all in their prime, up until the 2012 Euros they managed 0 semifinal appearances and underachieved time and time again. Now talented youngsters such as Luke Shaw, Ross Barkley and Jack Wilshere will take the expectations of a nation on their shoulders.
England’s Three Lions will be reminiscent of young cubs this summer.
So who were the “golden generation” that were meant to take the English national team to new heights and provide the nation which founded the game much needed success after decades in the doldrums?
Here’s a reminder of who they are and what they are doing now.
- Steven Gerrard – Captain of England at this World Cup but it may be his last. At the age of 33 Gerrard is no longer a marauding machine in midfield. This season he reinvented himself for Liverpool and almost helped them win the title as a holding midfielder, however his slip against Chelsea proved to be the defining moment. 109 caps leave him third all-time for England.
- Michael Owen – Now a pundit on English TV at the age of 34, Owen’s career was curtailed by several serious injuries and he never regained the pace and predatory instincts which saw him bang in goals for Liverpool and Real Madrid in his younger years. He is still fourth in the all-time list of England’s top scorers but it is a case of “what might have been” for Owen, and England.
- David Beckham – Retired from the game last season and now owns an MLS franchise in Miami. Beckham was one of the finest midfielders England has ever produced and he captained the side in the 2002 and 2006 World Cups. His presence as a leader meant he was the figure head of this golden generation but he could never lead them past the last-eight of any major competition. Record caps holder for an outfield player with 115.
- Rio Ferdinand – Will leave Manchester United when his contract runs out this summer. Ferdinand, 35, was the central defensive lynchpin and forged a formidable partnership with Sol Campbell and then John Terry at the heart of England’s defense. The latter partnership turned sour when Terry was involved in an alleged racist incident with Ferdinand’s brother and his form for club and country never recovered.
- John Terry – Still captaining Chelsea, JT had a phenomenal season in the Premier League and will be around next season after signing a new deal with the Blues. There have been calls for Terry, 33, to be called back into the England setup but Roy Hodgson has resisted. Terrific player and former skipper but problems off the pitch halted his England career far too early.
- Frank Lampard – Along with Gerrard, Lamps will be off to Brazil as an experienced head and vice-captain. His goalscoring exploits make him a crucial player and although he doesn’t have the engine to get around the pitch anymore, Lampard’s quality is undoubted. Great servant but it’s a shame his partnership alongside Gerrard never worked out.
- Ashley Cole – Lost his place in the current World Cup squad after being left on the sidelines at Chelsea all season and has now retired from the English national team. Cole has 107 caps to his name and is Mr. Reliable. He never let the Three Lions down.
- Paul Scholes – Retired after the 2004 Euros and was disillusioned with life at international level after being shunted out to the left wing under Sven Goran Eriksson’s time in charge. Popped up to score crucial goals. Another who left too early.
- Wayne Rooney – Was perhaps the last, and most important, piece of the puzzle in the “golden generation” tag. Rooney has failed to leave up to his hype at the last two World Cups and desperately needs to do something special in Brazil. Has scored 39 goals in 89 games and will likely become England’s highest-ever scorer.
- Joe Cole – Has just left West Ham after an unsuccessful second spell and Cole’s career has really gone downhill. England’s flair player at the 2006 World Cup only just made it to the 2010 after a huge campaign from fans. Fitness and loss of form has been an issue since but on his day he can unlock most defenses with his trickery. Never lived up to the hype.
- Gary and Phil Neville – Two no-nonsense defenders, the Neville brothers operated in the full back positions for many years. They were solid and dependable and offset the skill of Beckham, Scholes and Owen. Both were dependable, if not spectacular.
That was the “golden generation” but what about the new kids on the block? Let’s take a quick look at six England players who are set to be the future for the Three Lions.
The future of England
- Luke Shaw- The Southampton teenager has made the World Cup squad at the age of 18 and has been sensational this season. For someone so young he has an incredible maturity about him and is England’s future left back for decades to come.
- Jack Wilshere– Arsenal’s diminutive midfielder is a magician on the ball and has the bite and tenacity to run this show in the engine room. A leader at the age of 22, expect Wilshere to take over from Gerrard when the Liverpool skipper retires from the international scene.
- John Stones– The Everton central defender has shown great promise this season and is first reserve for the national team should Phil Jones or any other player get injured. The 19-year-old is comfortable on the ball and often dribbles out of the backline to start attacks.
- Ross Barkley – Another Everton product, the 20-year-old midfielder is in the World Cup squad and his powerful running will frighten teams in Brazil. He has scored some stunning goals this season and if handled correctly, Barkley could be a superstar.
- Adam Lallana– Along with Shaw and Jay Rodriguez at Southampton, Lallana is England’s most exciting attacking talent heading into the World Cup this summer. Roy Hodgson waxed lyrical about the playmakers performances in recent friendlies and his silky skills are a joy to watch.
- Daniel Sturridge – Likely to start as the lone front man or alongside Rooney this summer, Sturridge has had a breakout season for Liverpool in the PL with 25 goals. His pace, trickery and finishing ability make will see him lead the line for many years to come.