By Simon Glanville
Nominations for the FIFA Ballon d'Or were revealed this week and not one Englishman was named in the 23-strong party.
After a disastrous World Cup campaign and the failure of any English club to progress past the quarter-final stage of the 2009/2010 Champions League, it’s hardly that surprising. England will find out on 2 December if they have been successful in their bid to host the 2018 World Cup. But with an underperforming and ageing national side, just what will the England team look like in eight years time?
With a large quota of the current England team entering the ‘twilight’ of their careers, new stars will have to be unearthed. There will be no Frank Lampard, David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand or Ashley Cole. Even a 32-year old Wayne Rooney could be a distant memory come the 2018 showpiece.
Despite large criticism at the amount of foreign players plying their trade in the Premier League, there is a new generation of England hopefuls waiting for their chance. Premier League Champions Chelsea have a number of potential national stars on the periphery of their first-team squad. Daniel Sturridge – still only 21 – has starred for every England youth team, and is now breathing down the necks of the ageing Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka for a starting place at Stamford Bridge. 17-year old Josh McEachran is also one to watch, after making his debut for the Blues this season. Even the likes of Michael Macienne, Ryan Bertrand and Jack Cork, who have gone out on loan rather than sit in the reserves, have plenty of time on their sides.
At Arsenal, you may be surprised to know there are more than a handful of promising English youngsters looking to break through. Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs are already full England internationals at a young age, but the likes of Henri Lansbury, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Craig Eastmond, Emmanuel Frimpong and Benik Afobe are tipped as stars of the future.
The latest English youngsters to roll off the Manchester United production line include Ben Amos, Ravel Morrison, Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley, while Chris Smalling has been identified as one for the future after signing from Fulham.
At White Hart Lane, players such as Aaron Lennon and Tom Huddlestone should still be around come 2018, while the same can be said for James Milner, Adam Johnson, Jo Hart and Micah Richards at Manchester City. Jordon Henderson, Lee Cattermole and Frazier Campbell have already established themselves as Premier League regulars at Sunderland, likewise at Bolton where Gary Cahill and Fabrice Muamba look the part. Youngsters Tom Eaves and Danny Ward also look to have bright futures at the Reebok and beyond.
At Newcastle, Andy Carroll is not far off from a senior call-up, while Dan Gosling and Nile Ranger look to have bright futures. Highly-rated trio Marc Albrighton, Fabian Delph and Nathan Delfouneso have broke through at Villa Park, while Liverpool have Jonjo Shelvey, Martin Kelly, Stephen Darby and Jay Spearing forming part of the first-team squad. Young Birmingham goalkeeper Jack Butland has been tipped as a future England number one, while Scott Dann and Ben Foster could also have international futures after performing well at St Andrews.
Jack Rodwell has been labelled as the next big thing at Everton, while youngsters Jose Baxter and Luke Garbutt have the potential to have Premier League futures. At the age of 18, Phil Jones has already established himself as a regular at Blackburn, while young ‘keeper Frank Fielding was called into the senior England team as back-up recently.
Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross is now regarded as a top Premier League defender, while West Ham have the likes of Mark Noble, James Tomkins, Frank Nouble and Junior Stanislas who have all gained top-level experience at a young age. Matt Phillips, Victor Moses, Joe Mattock and Richard Stearman are other names that have already mixed it with the big boys in the Premier League.
A number of these youngsters have come to the Premiership via the Football League, where there are a number of youngsters learning the game. After a nightmare World Cup, England’s international future looked bleak. But looking at the amount of youngsters breaking through, the future is bright.
Let’s face it, our current crop of ‘stars’ have had their chance. They should now be looking over their shoulders as a new group of Three Lions emerge.