Are we witnessing England's golden generation?
As the days go by and the England national team continue to advance in the 2018 World Cup, the term 'golden generation' seems to be entering our daily conversations. And why wouldn’t it? Football is indeed coming home and it’s all thanks to England’s golden generation.
First of all, let’s gain some clarity.
Define Golden Generation:
“is an exceptionally gifted group of players of similar age, whose achievements reach or are expected to reach a level of success that which their had previously achieved.”
This current England squad is the joint youngest in the tournament, they boast an average of just 24. With the exception of Ashley Young and Gary Cahill, the squad is built around twenty-somethings. So, we at least have a match for the first part of the definition. It’s the second 45 that needs discussing.
England’s former golden generation consisted of bonafide Premier League legends. From defence to attack, the squad was filled with PROVEN top-quality players that had defined an era of Premier League football. Illustrious names like Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Michael Owen and David Beckham headlined the squad, forcing pundits across the world to fear the Three Lions. However, for all the hype and acclaim, these bunch of superstars will only be remembered for a 5-1 friendly win over Germany. Wowzers.
As things stand, a place in the World Cup semi-final means this current crop of English players has ALREADY exceeded their predecessor’s achievements. In South Korea, they reached the quarter-final, in Germany they reached another quarter-final, in South Africa they were upstaged by Germany’s U21s in the round of 16 and in Brazil, they couldn't even get out of the group stage. In one tournament, Gareth Southgate’s youngsters have done more than those so-called world-class players and equalled the Three Lions’ best showing at the tournament for 28 years.
The only asterisk concerning labelling this squad a golden generation is the apparent lack of big names. Only Harry Kane has the pedigree to be mentioned in the same class as the previous class. Despite that, Raheem Sterling is still set to achieve more than Beckham in an England shirt as is Harry Maguire compared to Ferdinand and Terry.
By the definition we sourced earlier, Panama’s 2018 World Cup team are their country’s golden generation, as this was the first time they’ve ever qualified for the finals. What determines a golden generation is all dependent on the achievements of ancestors, not in relation to success defined by world football’s standards.
Perhaps we’re all getting a bit excited here? In reality, England has played a bunch of sub-par teams en-route to the semi-final. Wins over teams like; Tunisia, Panama, Colombia (AET) & Sweden are nice, but not impressive. The only time they faced a team of reasonable quality in Belgium, they were made to look completely average.
In fact, if we want to be really cynical, perhaps these England players aren’t the golden generation, Southgate is. This isn’t a more talented group of English players than previous years gone by, this squad just has a manager who isn’t completely clueless. Sven-Goran Eriksson, Fabio Capello and Steve McClaren were all utterly inept on the international stage, failing to achieve anything with England’s most talented crop of players ever.
Come Wednesday evening, the world will truly gauge the capabilities of this England squad as they face their toughest test yet, a Luka Modric-led Croatian team. Regardless of their route through the tournament, if England brings football ‘home’, then they will be crowned THE golden generation.