As someone who has always believed in giving youth a crack at the World Cup—having brought in Michael Owen, David Beckham and Paul Scholes for the World Cup in France in '98—I feel the time is right for Ross Barkley and Adam Lallana to make their mark in this tournament in Brazil. It is made for them.
Barkley and Lallana are a must for my England team; not just the squad going along for the ride, but they should start the World Cup and play in as much of the tournament as they can to gain vital experience to make England a real force at the European Championships.
England has a rich crop of young players coming through, but that might be wasted unless they are given tournament experience at the highest level to prepare them for bigger things to come.
We have quality, if not quantity, players and Barkley and Lallana are standouts for me. They have creative flair and instinctive, natural gifts which need to be nurtured and not used sparingly for any fear that their inexperience will fail to bring results.
To get the best out of such youngsters, these guys need to be allowed to play their natural game, and then they will blossom on the world stage. They might surprise a few people.
Few, if any, will have even heard of them outside of England, but I’ve got a feeling that if Roy Hodgson takes a risk and plays them, the talking point will be that English football is developing fresh, technically gifted players.
When I took Owen, no one had heard about him, and people were shocked when they saw his pace and eye for goal.
Nobody realised just how quick he was or how good he was in front of goal, but it will be the same in Brazil, where we will have one or two youngsters who could become eye-openers for the rest of the world.
Hodgson needs to impress upon them that they are England's future, and they are playing to build them up for the Euros in France where England can have a realistic tilt at winning the trophy.
It wasn’t long ago that we seemed to rely heavily on the emerging talent of Jack Wilshere, but he has suffered his fair share of injuries, and Barkley and Lallana have emerged with such effect that Hodgson no longer needs to take a gamble on the Arsenal man’s fitness.
We have some exciting English talent with Raheem Sterling, Luke Shaw and Barkley, and while Lallana may not be as young, he is still inexperienced at that level.
You really do need that lovely blend of youth and experience, and I fully expect Hodgson will go for that formula.
In 1998, I took Rio Ferdinand to France so he could experience the tournament environment with a view to Euro 2000.
With Beckham, Owen and Scholes also coming through, I identified the Euros as one England could win. I thought we could really attack the tournament in Belgium and Holland, but, of course, I never got that chance.
I also had some really wise, old heads in my squad like Alan Shearer and Paul Ince to help those youngsters. Rooney is now one of those old wise heads, and he can finally establish himself as a world-class performer by taking the tournament in Brazil by storm.
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