Germany, Spain, Brazil and (for the hipsters) Belgium are considered footballing goldmines – they churn out talented wonderkids and football prodigies like it’s their day job (it isn’t).
One nation flying under the radar in this aspect is England.
A constant underachiever on the international stage, the English national team has failed to live up to the promise of “golden generations”, and the English media is often guilty of proclaiming a youngster as the next big thing before they’ve even done anything.
But, contrary to popular belief, England could become one of football’s strongest nations if their current crop of youngsters come to fruition.
The crop of young talent in the Premier League is quite impressive. There is an abundance of rapidly-improving Englishmen who could play a large part in the future of the Three Lions’ national side.
With Joe Hart only 27-years-old, and gaining a plethora of experience challenging for the highest honours with Manchester City, the spot of England’s No. 1 looks to be secure for a good decade. Hart, although although not at his imperious best of two seasons ago, is a great keeper. Stoke City keeper Jack Butland is a worthy understudy.
The back line looks increasingly promising as well; Southampton fullbacks Nathaniel Clyne and (especially) Luke Shaw are already good enough for Roy Hodgson to consider their inclusion into the England squad; Kyle Walker is also an option, while Liverpool’s Jon Flanagan has produced consistently solid displays on either flank this season. All three will continue to improve.
At centreback, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Steven Caulker and John Stones are all accumulating an encouraging amount of Premier League experience, and you would bank on at least one or two of them becoming a mainstay in England’s defence.
England’s midfield is especially interesting: Jordan Henderson, Jack Wilshere and Ross Barkley are all crucial components in their clubs’ respective midfields. The combination of industry, flair, vision, technique and authority is exciting for England. The three could combine to make an impressive, dynamic and well-rounded midfield for the Three Lions (and that’s not even considering other promising midfielders like Will Hughes of Derby, James Ward-Prowse of Southampton, or Jonjo Shelvey of Swansea).
But most exciting of all is England’s potential front line.
Made abundantly clear by Liverpool, Daniel Sturridge (still years away from his prime) and Raheem Sterling (who has hardly even started his career) could terrorize defences on the international stage.
Sturridge is, quite simply, England’s most prolific striker. Further still, he’s statistically been one of the most prolific in world football this past season. If he can recreate anything similar to his club form while playing for England, he will be a force to be reckoned with.
Meanwhile, Sterling is frighteningly good for a teenager, already contributing goals and assists on par with much more seasoned Premier League wingers. His development could be crucial for both club and country; it’s easy to get carried away with young players, but Sterling genuinely looks set for stardom.
And although not young, Rooney could fill in the final slot of an attacking triumvirate with his two Liverpool counterparts. His experience could see him captain England’s 2018 World Cup squad, and with such a young squad, he could be a vital cog.
On top of that, England have the likes of Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott – all of whom are young enough and talented enough to contribute.
Of course, much of this potential for England will be influenced by the man at the helm.
Whether Roy Hodgson has the intelligence, courage or just plain desire to mould England’s young talent into an attractive, offensive footballing powerhouse is doubtful.
Though if England were to employ a manager with vision and an emphasis on attacking football, the possibilities are mouthwatering for England supporters.
Purely speculative (of course, young players don’t all develop), but with some luck and the right tutelage, England could boast a 2018 World Cup team as exciting as this:
Summer 2014 will likely end quickly for England – with Italy and Uruguay in their World Cup group, and with Roy Hodgson at the helm, the Three Lions are unlikely to go far.
But with an incredible pool of youngsters, and with the inevitable replacement of Hodgson, there could actually be a very exciting future in store.
Time will tell of course, but England could be in line for a return to the glory days.