After the debacle of England’s World Cup performance, this seemingly meaningless friendly against Hungary on Wednesday represents the beginning of a new era for English football and for that reason, it should be given plenty of reverence. Just 10 of the 23 men selected for the World Cup found themselves in Coach Fabio Capello’s plans on Saturday night and the time between then and now has seen the retirement (and withdrawal of Michael Carrick) of some players. Wes Brown, Paul Robinson, Darren Bent and Michael Carrick have all made themselves unavailable for Wednesday’s friendly for various reasons but the importance of Brown and Robinson’s retirement, along with those that have occurred since the World Cup, have been blown out of proportion and unfairly used as a stick upon which to beat the Italian.
It has been suggested the retirements of Brown and Robinson show the players feel uncomfortable working under Capello and the Coach is struggling to communicate with his players properly. However, the retirement of these men (including Emile Heskey and Jamie Carragher) and the omission of Shaun Wright-Phillips, David James et al, can only be a good thing for England’s future. Robinson and Brown are not England’s future and therefore their decisions should not bear any affect to how Capello’s squad for the friendly is perceived – it is a squad that has, in this writer’s opinion, given England renewed enthusiasm to progress in international football. The inclusion of 18-year-old Jack Wilshire, 20-year-old Kieran Gibbs and 25-year-old Ashley Young show that whilst Capello has stuck to the main core of players, including John Terry and Steven Gerrard, he has been flexible in his willingness to look towards ahead. Whether the starting XI against Hungary will depict the new England remains to be seen but the original squad is indicative of what is to come.
The qualification for the 2012 European Championships begins now – whilst this game will have no impact on England’s chances of making it to Poland and Ukraine in two years time, should fans see a good performance, it may instigate a new aura around the nation’s football team. Prior conceptions of England should be forgotten – Wilshire, Joe Hart, Gibbs and other players that are just starting their England career, should not be inflicted with the dismay that Terry, Gerrard and co have received. Whether or not Capello is liked by the fans should also be forgotten – the ‘golden generation’ label that encompassed the squads of England’s most recent tournament failures, have failed before under different managers. The World Cup disappointment is the first taste of such an experience for Capello and a new squad may bring new fortunes and for that, the sense of hope and the unknown, Wednesday’s friendly should be anticipated with excitement.
A more pertinent worry than the retirements of fringe players should be Capello’s admission that he is struggling to conjure a way of changing the mindset of England’s squad – perhaps that will change naturally through time and through a substantial change in personnel but it is rather unnerving to hear the man in control of the team admitting: “I