My first ever post on this blog one year ago today was on whether England were a team of youth or a team of experience, going into our final World Cup qualifier against Poland. In that post, I concluded that we had the right blend of youth and experience in our squad, meaning that we would “be a nation to be feared come next summer [at the World Cup].” It turned out Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica all feared losing to us.
World Cup misery aside, how does the current Three Lions team compare to the squad 12 months ago?
So the obvious thing to do is to look at the players in each of the squads. 12 players are in both, whereas some players who were in the squad last year are not in the current crop because of injuries such as Daniel Sturridge, Ross Barkley and Phil Jones.
However older players such as Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard (both retired), Jermain Defoe and Michael Carrick have lost their place in the squad to younger heads Fabian Delph, Jonjo Shelvey, Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana.
Meanwhile, the current injured defenders Jones and Kyle Walker who aren’t exactly veterans, have had their places pinched by Calum Chambers and Nathaniel Clyne.
Players who weren’t in either squads but have been chosen by Roy Hodgson in between and remain suitable options, are also younger and less experienced such as John Stones, Danny Rose, Jon Flanagan, Jack Colback and Luke Shaw, who went to the World Cup.
We also have a younger captain in Wayne Rooney, who doesn’t have much less experience than previous skipper Gerrard.
So it is quite clear that this current England squad is a much younger one that tackled two World Cup qualifiers in October 2013, something which isn’t that surprising considering it was clear that a new approach was needed after a dreadful World Cup in the summer. Gerrard, Lampard and Cole have retired, which has also lowered the average age of the squad.
But my final question is whether or not this younger approach is working and the only way to answer this is using the ever reliable tool of statistics, which I have used in 87% of my posts in the last year (that’s a made up stat).
Going on to the real stats, a year ago today, a Three Lions XI with an average age 27 beat Poland 2-0, whilst four days earlier a starting 11 with again an average age of 27 beat Montenegro 4-1.
Compare this to the Euro Qualifiers this month, we beat San Marino 5-0 with a starting 11 who had an average age of 25 last Thursday, and on Sunday evening, a starting XI with an average age of 26
This month’s opponents were arguably easier than those of October 2013, but it does show that we have a younger side and that they are still winning games.
It’s now up to the young guns to qualify for the 2016 European Championships without the influence of as many older heads as in previous campaigns.