When Adam Crozier, to the joy of tabloid editors nationwide, labelled the current group of players as England ’s “Golden Generation”, eyebrows were raised – eyebrows and expectations. Outclassed by Brazil in 2002, outfought by Portugal in 2004 and 2006, before being outclassed once more by Croatia in 2008 and now Germany in 2010 – the English public are left wondering when these superstars of world football going to deliver on the international front.
For their clubs at least, England ’s ‘big players’ are indeed big players. Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and Jermaine Defoe all came into the World Cup on the back of personal record-breaking seasons, Steven Gerrard has been synonymous with Liverpool since he first donned the famous shirt and John Terry and Ashley Cole have been typically solid in helping Chelsea dethrone Manchester United this year. And with the relative dominance of English teams in recent European competitions, teams which featured these English stars throughout the spine of the team, the term “golden” seemed – albeit rather hyperbolic – apt.
Yet, to the bafflement of chemists everywhere, an amalgamation of golden individuals has fallen short of producing a golden team – very short. Indeed, one struggles to think of a precious metal to compare the England team of World Cup 2010 to. Crozier promised gold, the media insisted it was gold, Capello seemed to be the perfect alchemist – but we somehow ended up with a crude aluminium alloy of a side, as disjointed as it was disappointing. The only gold that can be realistically associated with these players are the thousands of pieces they are taking home each week.
And so, as the much-hyped Golden generation prepare to depart the international scene with a World Cup quarter-final, a World Cup last 16 place and European Championships failed qualification campaign to their name, England are ostensibly left moored in international wilderness – who will step up to replace the Lampard’s and the Gerrard’s of the squad? “The World Cup in 2014 will be difficult,” says Sir Trevor Brooking. “I don’t think we have players of obvious quality coming through. Maybe we can fast-track one or two lads from the younger age groups – but that’s asking a lot.” As disparaging as Sir Trevor’s words may be, they are possibly just what the new generation of England internationals need – somebody to prove wrong, as opposed to somebody telling them just how talented they are.
We can but hope that England enter the 2012 European Championships as 14/1 outsiders, with a team of young and hungry players fighting to make a name for themselves on the international scene. Then again, two years is just about long enough for a new Chief Executive to herald the arrival of the new Platinum generation.