I have always questioned whether this generation of players truly value their spot in the England set-up.
Over recent years, it is fair to say that England have not really performed at their highest level, despite the array of talent that we have produced. The likes of Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen, David Beckham and Steven Gerrard have all tried – to their credit they have been great players who have achieved great things at club level – but things never really got going for them on the international stage.
Lack of passion
Every young child dreams of playing the beautiful game for a living. However, few actually do. Sometimes I get the feeling that English players do not get the same buzz from representing their country compared to when they are earning their millions at club level. I do not think it matters as much to them as it should, hence the poor performances. Playing for their country is clearly not enough of a motivating factor.
I look at the Spanish, German or even the Brazilian national teams and you can tell that they all want to be involved. We all saw the atmosphere in Brazil over the summer – when Brazil were playing it was beyond extraordinary; the noise from the fans, the way the players celebrated together and got involved with the crowd. It was passion that I have never seen from England.
Following the retirement of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard and a number of injuries, England have many holes that need filling. However, there are cases where players are being called up despite lacking the needed experience. Players like Callum Chambers and Luke Shaw, although two very talented teenagers, have very little international experience, yet get picked for the senior squad when they should be playing for the under-21 side.
This has a knock-on effect as players do not get a chance to play together throughout the development teams. The senior team wastes time trying to get players to bond, yet there are new faces again before they get the chance. Of course teams need to change over the years and new players need to be brought in, but surely they would perform better if a number of players were brought through at the same time, having had time to bond in the youth squads.
Learn from the best
I believe this is where the problem stems from – the misuse of the Under-21 side. Again, if you look at a team like Germany or Spain, many of the players have played together for many years, from Under-18 to Under-21 level, eventually making the step up to the senior side together. For instance, Mario Gotze and Mesut Ozil featured for Germany in previous under-21 campaigns and are now an integral part of the senior side that won the 2014 World Cup. This is something I believe England should look to emulate, given the success of Spain and Germany in recent years.
In the modern day players are put under a lot of pressure by their clubs and that seems to overshadow the importance of international football. International games are often placed in the middle of the season and can result in players picking up season-ending injuries in games that have no real significance. These are some of many reasons why players may not be motivated to play for their country.
If you look at individuals from around the world, players like Neymar or Lionel Messi for example, their respective countries adore them, which encourages them to give back to the fans. Throughout the World Cup, Neymar was Brazil’s poster-boy, and following his injury, everything seemed to go downhill for Brazil. Not just because he is a world-class player, but due to the effect he had on his peers and fans alike. Do we have any players like that in the England squad?