Five For The Future From Fabio Capello's Latest England Squad
While England fans are mourning the demise of the so called ‘golden generation,’ Fabio Capello is already starting to look to the future with his squad selection.
It is true that in recent years, England have been able to field more than their fair share of world-class players.
The likes of Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney, David Beckham, Steve Gerrard, Frank Lampard, John Terry, and Rio Ferdinand would all have graced almost any international team in their primes.
However, England fans have finally been forced to come to the terms with the unwelcome realization that collectively these players have been a failure.
The team has not managed to reach the semi-finals of a single international tournament for almost 15 years.
The enormous expectation which surrounded this group of players is slowly beginning to dissipate to be replaced by a lingering sense of disappointment.
Part of the reason for the current despondency is that none of the current crop of youngsters look to be of anything approaching the caliber of the players they are expected to ultimately replace.
This expectation which currently accompanies England to every major international tournament is as unrealistic as it is unhelpful.
England might have had an exceptional group of players but at no stage has the team ever been widely regarded as the best in the world, or even just in Europe.
Having fewer high-profile players might ultimately be a good thing. In the past the England team has amounted to far less than the sum of its parts, perhaps now a side can be forged based on team spirit and togetherness, rather than individual ability.
That is not to say that youngsters starting to emerge are entirely bereft of ability. There are still some talented young English players and while England fans may no longer have expectation, there is still plenty of reason for hope.
Here are five players from Capello’s latest England squad capable of making an impression on the international stage.
We have been here before with young goalkeepers. Chris Kirkland, Scott Carson and Ben Foster have all emerged as potential England internationals and all have, to varying degrees, fallen by the wayside.
Joe Hart had an excellent season with Birmingham City and could be the first goalkeeper of his generation to enjoy sustained success on the international stage.
The biggest concern is that Hart is currently not the first choice goal keeper for his club, Manchester City.
Unless Hart can estabish himself in the Manchester City side ahead of Shay Given, he will need to move on. A move before the end of the transfer window, whether permanent or temporary, might be necessary if Hart is to establish himself as England’s No. 1.
Gibbs is Ashley Cole’s successor in more ways than one.
A product of the same Arsenal academy from which Cole emerged, he has been named in Capello’s squad despite only having made a handful of first-team appearances for his club.
Gibbs might well have gone to the World Cup had he not missed most of last season due to an ankle injury.
His versatility will be key as he can play on the left wing as well as at left back, and England have been short of naturally left-footed wingers in recent years.
Johnson almost forced himself into Capello’s World Cup squad with some fine performances after joining Manchester City in the January transfer window.
A natural left winger, he is quick and skilful and has an eye for the goal. He has the potential to be a success on the international stage but securing a place in the Manchester City line up will be no easy task.
Shaun Wright Phillips and Micah Richards could conceivably have ended up on this list, but they are unlikely to get much of a look in for their club, let alone their country at present.
If Johnson features regularly for Manchester City, he is highly likely to break into the England team.
If he spends most of next season sitting on the bench, his international prospects will suffer.
Wilshere is rated extremely highly both at Arsenal and Bolton Wanderers, where he enjoyed a particularly productive loan spell last season.
He will at least be on the periphery of the Arsenal first team this season and could well become a regular fixture at the Emirates.
Arsene Wenger has a proven track record when it comes to nurturing young talent and Wilshere will be in the best possible environment in which to continue his footballing education.
It will be interesting to see what position he plays in for Arsenal. His long-term future is probably as a midfield playmaker, but he might find himself used in more of a wide role to start with.
Milner is the oldest and most established player on this list. He is also the only one to have actually appeared for England in the World Cup where he put in a couple of encouraging performances on the wing.
It is in a central role that Milner really thrived for Aston Villa last season and he will feel that this is where his long-term future lies.
With a move to Manchester City imminent Milner’s career is at something of a cross roads.
If he starts regularly for Manchester City he will benefit from playing alongside the likes of Yaya Toure, David Silva and Carlos Tevez.
If he is unable to break into the team, his career could stagnate and international opportunities will be less likely to arise.
The careers of both Theo Walcott and Ashley Young have stagnated slightly in the past 12 months but both featured against Hungaria on Wednesday.
If Walcott can realize his enormous potential and start to play with intelligence as well as pace he could be an extremely effective player for England.
His hat trick against Croatia might seem like a long time ago now, but it provided a tantalizing glimpse of what Walcott could achieve for the national team.
Young is a more conventional winger than Walcott who and is one of the best crossers of the ball in the English game.
After excelling in his first full season for Aston Villa he has been a little less productive of late.
If he can recapture the form he showed when he scored nine goals and provided 17 assists in a single Premiership season he could definitely establish himself in the England side.
Phil Jagielka, Bobby Zamora and Michael Dawson may not have youth on their side but they are constantly improving and have impressed for their domestic sides.
If Owen Hargreaves ever recovers from injury he could play a part and Michael Owen will probably feel he still has something to offer.
There was plenty of English talent not on display at the World Cup and I expect to see more of these players.