With another World Cup approaching, the expectation over what England can achieve is at an all-time low. While England have some players in the squad who have thrived this season, like Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling, it’s clear the team as a whole is nowhere close to the quality of gone by squads.
One benefit to the current team is that several different clubs are represented in 23, rather that strict lines caused by club divides.
In the past, Manchester United, Chelsea and, to a certain extent, Liverpool, largely contributed but now there is more variation.
It’s no secret that club rivalries had a hugely damaging impact in previous tournaments.
Rio Ferdinand, who replaced John Terry as England captain after the Chelsea defender had the armband taken off him for racially abusing Anton, has spoken about how team loyalties ruined England’s chances of success.
“It overshadowed things. It killed that England team, that generation. One year we would have been fighting Liverpool to win the league, another year it would be Chelsea.
So I was never going to walk into the England dressing room and open up to Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, John Terry or Joe Cole at Chelsea, or Steven Gerrard or Jamie Carragher at Liverpool because of the fear they would take something back to their club and use it against us.
I didn’t realise that what I was doing was hurting England at the time. I was so engrossed, so obsessed with winning with Man United – nothing else mattered.”
While this will be music to the ears of United fans, who will be glad that Ferdinand put everything in earning success at club level, it’s no consolation for England supporters who have seen the Golden Generation come and go without any silverware.
Ashley Young, one of four United players in the current England squad, has insisted that rivalries won’t have an impact on this World Cup.
“A lot of things have been said by previous players, but here everybody gets on with everyone,” he said. “Everyone is pulling in the same direction. Obviously there is club rivalry, but when you are here with England, you are representing your country. The rivalries get put to bed. They are put aside. You are fighting together as one team.”
England fans will be glad to hear this but Young is unlikely to say anything else. Is he going to admit the squad is divided a few weeks before a World Cup? Probably not.
Young has clashed with one of England’s stars, Dele Alli, already this season during United’s win over Tottenham Hotspur. The Spurs player told Young he should retire and needed a zimmerframe, while the left-back responded: “Let me know when you win the Prem.”
Alli has yet to win any silverware in his career while Young has more or less a clean sweep of trophies, with the exception of the Champions League.
Young has claimed their spat is behind them though and encourages this side of Alli’s game.
“We had a laugh and a joke about it,” he said. “People say he has to take that sort of stuff out of his game but he’s one of those players who plays on the edge. He winds people up, that’s just him.”
While the rifts may have ended, which would be some positive news, the players being best mates won’t turn them in to Messi. This is the worst England squad for decades but maybe what their lacking in talent they can help make up for with camaraderie.