by Jake Garner

Roy Hodgson speaking in an interview before England’s game against Switzerland:

“Our major task or the thing we really have to conquer today is fear really; that the players don’t express themselves or the players are frightened that something will happen and they won’t get the result.”

If one player represented the England team right now, it would be Fernando Torres. The prime years are gone and although there is still ability there, access to it is blocked through poor confidence. How many times have we seen them both turn something into nothing? Fortunately, England isn’t actually Torres, and they can bring in new players and change the mentality of the squad. Roy has recognised this and assembled a much more youthful side. Like Fernando, we’re moving on in the hope we’ll find greener pastures.

In Brazil, we saw our youngest squad since 1958. The average age then was 24-25. Eight years later, we won our only ever major tournament. Of the starting line up against Switzerland, the average age was 24-25. In eight years, coincidentally, England will be going to the 2022 World Cup that Greg Dyke has tasked them with winning. There is a clear plan to develop the team in time for Qatar and to start that process; we had to rid ourselves, either by fortune or by design, of the most experienced players in the squad. Why you ask? As Adrian Charles put it after watching the interview with Roy Hodgson:

“Fear, anxiety; that’s what England are all about…I don’t think it’s the match they fear, it’s just what they fear in the press the following morning…The England players who you can tell are just psychologically damaged, just psychologically worn out at least by years of playing for England…”

Those players? John Terry, Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. All of those four bar Lampard, are performing better right now than anything we currently have. Would you rather have the ‘Ginger Pirlo’ that is Jack Colback, or Gerrard? We could have Terry and Cahill alongside each other, who play together week in week out for their club. Ashley Cole is arguable, but in all honesty Baines contributes far more at Everton than he ever has for England and Luke Shaw, once fit, will probably be made first choice.

Regardless of why they retired from international football, these guys were ‘psychologically damaged’ and it is for the best that they are no longer in the setup because that damage and that ‘fear’ that Roy spoke about before the game, resonates through the rest of the group in their performance. They might sound great on paper, but in reality it just isn’t the case.

A lot of the players, admittedly, will have been disheartened by the World Cup. However, the only player in the current squad who has been on the end of multiple failures is Wayne Rooney and with any luck, he can use the Captaincy to play with the right attitude.

We can still see a bit of tentativeness in our performance. As an example, Welbeck had a great opportunity to set up Sterling last night but held off for as long as possible before scuffing the pass. But with the youthful team brimming with desire, such as Fabien Delph who had an excellent game, Danny Welbeck came back stronger and even netted two goals which is rare for him. England’s young bucks are slightly nervous on the pitch but if they can form a positive attitude and build from the strong base we have right now over the next eight years, perhaps in Qatar we can finally emulate the success of 1966.