England: A team of youth or a team of experience?

Andros Townsend

As I write, we are a few hours away from the kick off of England’s final and crucial World Cup qualifier against Poland. A win will see the Three Lions qualify automatically for Brazil 2014, but a draw or a loss means that they will need to face a play-off tie against another group runner-up.

But if Roy Hodgson’s side to reach the tournament next summer, what should the former Liverpool boss go for in his 23 man squad? A young, fresh new team, a squad full of experience or a mixture of both?

In his reign as England boss, Hodgson has given debuts to 17 players, all but four of them being under 22 years of age. This shows that he likes to give young players a chance and it often pays off – e.g Andros Townsend’s influential debut against Montenegro on Friday.

Andros Townsend and Ross Barkley are both young players who Hodgson has given debuts to recently
Andros Townsend and Ross Barkley are both young players who Hodgson has given debuts to recently

But how many of these players will actually make Hodgson’s World Cup squad? 10 of the 17 debutants are yet to feature on the pitch for the Three Lions since their international bow. My thoughts go back to Sven-Goran Eriksson’s time in charge of the national team, where the Swede’s theory was to give any in-form English player a call-up.

On the experience side of things, the oldest player in the squad for this month’s World Cup qualifiers is 35 year old Frank Lampard, with five other members of the squad over the age of 30. Lampard, along with Steven Gerrard are the only two players with over 100 caps, with Ashley Cole (who has 105 caps) not included in this month’s squad because of injury.

Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard: two of England's most experienced current players
Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard: two of England’s most experienced current players

6 of the players in England’s current squad were part of the team who competed in South Africa 2010. This may be experience, but going by England’s success at the tournament, it wasn’t great.

I think on the whole, Roy Hodgson has the about the right balance of players in his squad. Players like Gerrard and Lampard provide maturity to team and give knowledge and experience to younger, newer players Andros Townsend and Ross Barkley who give the squad a fresh, exciting look which could surprise many teams as it did against Montenegro.

The experienced gaffer may need to be a little bit less hasty in giving out caps to any in form players, but on the whole, the right selection of players are in the England squad most of the time.

Our country may sit 17th in the FIFA World Rankings right now, but with the right blend of youth and experience, like Spain had in 2010, the Three Lions may be a nation to be feared come next summer.

But if Hodgson relies on the younger players too much, their lack of experience will show so that’s where the more familiar faces come in to play. All great players start off with talent but no knowledge or understanding and need older mentors to help them along the way. So if England can get this balance right, who knows, these 47 years of hurt may not come to an end but they may be close to finally being banished.

Spain won the World Cup in 2010 with the right blend of youth and experience
Spain won the World Cup in 2010 with the right blend of youth and experience
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