Three years have passed since England embarrassingly failed to make it out of the group stages in Brazil. We didn’t think it could get much worse than a winless exit from the biggest sporting tournament in the world, yet last summer Roy and the boys lost to Iceland in the last 16 of Euro 2016.
Supporting England has always been difficult – since Bobby Moore lifted the Jules Rimet trophy 51 years ago, the men have made only two senior semi-finals; Italia WC 90 and our home Euro 96. Despite not being close to winning any tournament, we remain the most loathed international team on the world stage.
Do we deserve it? Who cares? The problem now is that recently we’ve been more of a laughing stock than a source of hatred.
It looks very likely that we will reach the world cup next year. We are currently two points clear of nearest challengers Slovakia, who still have to come to Wembley. Though not a formality, fans will not be concerned about not qualifying.
It is at these tournaments that we have perennially failed. A “Golden Generation” of Beckham, Gerrard, Lampard, Ferdinand, Terry and Rooney failed to reach the semi-finals in all of the last four World Cups, despite even being favourites to win in 2010.
After Roy Hodgson limped away from the Euro 2016, Sam Allardyce was brought in to bring back the English identity to the national team. He lasted one match.
We now have Gareth Southgate and though his experience at club level was little, he brought knowledge of the international youth set up, as well as the pain of his penalty miss in Euro 96. The former Middlesbrough boss seems determined in his quest to bring success to the three lions and has shown courage in his short spell so far, dropping captain Wayne Rooney.
In 2014, Steven Gerrard led out a squad full of players who wouldn’t be involved in 2018. Gerrard himself, Lampard, Leighton Baines, Glen Johnson and Rickie Lambert and James Milner are all no longer involved in the international set up.
In 2016, a bright young crop of players filled those gaps. Dele Alli, Eric Dier and others stormed onto the national stage. We went to France after beating Germany in Berlin, with the youngest squad in the tournament. We had the players, but the players didn’t have the bottle. We came second in our group and then lost to Iceland.
Since then, we have steadily marched towards Russia, largely with the same players. A few more youngsters are knocking on the door and those youngsters from 2016 now have caps and experience – we are in an unquestionably better place.
This five-part feature series profiles the players and tactics that we will be using next Summer. Though which goalkeepers are heading in the direction of selection for Gareth Southgate’s squad?
Written by Sam Hanys.