Many pundits and fans have labelled Gareth Southgate’s latest crop as the ‘worst England squad’ in recent memory.
By a means of comparison, we thought it would be fun to consider how many of the players in consideration for England’s 2018 World Cup squad would have got into Sven-Goran Eriksson’s 2006 squad.
In the spirit of fairness, we’re judging the 2006 ‘Golden Generation’ on their reputation at the time, rather than what they went on to achieve.
And similarly, the modern players are measured using their current form, rather than what they’ve achieved in the past (*cough cough* Joe Hart).
2006 options: Paul Robinson, David James, Scott Carson
2018 options: Joe Hart, Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope, Jack Butland
Bit of a lottery to start.
Robinson had established himself as a superb shot-stopper with Spurs an but his main attribute was his comically gigantic kick.
After discarding Hart and Carson, we had James, Pickford, Pope and Butland battle it out for the last two spots and went with the trademark blend of experience and youth.
ON THE PLANE: Robinson, James, Pickford
2006 options: Gary Neville, Ashley Cole, Wayne Bridge
2018 options: Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier, Ryan Bertrand, Danny Rose, Ashley Young, Luke Shaw, Fabian Delph
We need two right-backs and two left-backs here.
Neville and Cole are shoo-ins and given that Eriksson didn’t even bother picking a second right-back in 2006, Walker gets the nod as well.
We held a vote in the office for the last spot and Rose just edged it over Bridge.
ON THE PLANE: Neville, Walker, Cole, Rose
2006 options: Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Sol Campbell, Jamie Carragher
2018 options: John Stones, Joe Gomez, Harry Maguire, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, James Tarkowski, Alfie Mawson
This is an absolute walkover for the old guard.
The 2006 quartet is a who’s who of legendary Premier League centre-backs and even at the time that was clear for at least three of them.
Possession-enthusiasts would argue for Stones over Carragher but we’ve got it down as a clean sweep…
ON THE PLANE: Ferdinand, Terry, Campbell, Carragher
2006 options: Steven Gerrard, David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Owen Hargreaves, Jermaine Jenas, Michael Carrick, Aaron Lennon, Stewart Downing
2018 options: Dele Alli, Lewis Cook, Eric Dier, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Jesse Lingard, Jake Livermore, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere, Raheem Sterling, Jack Cork, Jonjo Shelvey
Eight midfielders to pick and for the sake of our sanity, we decided not to worry too much about formation.
Becks, Lamps and Stevie G is a good starting point and unlike most England managers of the last 15 years we’re not going to overlook Carrick.
Joe Cole was in his prime in 2006 and possessed a creative spark while Sterling’s 15 league goals this season is difficult to ignore…
ON THE PLANE: Gerrard, Lampard, Beckham, Cole, Sterling, Carrick, Alli, Hargreaves
2006 options: Micheal Owen, Wayne Rooney, Theo Walcott, Peter Crouch
2018 options: Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, Marcus Rashford, Danny Welbeck, Glenn Murray
We can all agree on Owen, Rooney and Kane, can’t we?
One spot left and for us it comes down to the speed and tenacity of Vardy versus the sheer height of Crouch.
In the end we went for the better goalscorer…
ON THE PLANE: Owen, Rooney, Kane, Vardy
FINAL COMBINED SQUAD:
KEEPERS: Robinson, James, Pickford
DEFENDERS: Neville, Walker, Cole, Rose, Ferdinand, Terry, Campbell, Carragher
MIDFIELDERS: Gerrard, Lampard, Beckham, Cole, Sterling, Carrick, Alli, Hargreaves
FORWARDS: Owen, Rooney, Kane, Vardy
So in answer to our question, seven of the current crop would have got into England’s 2006 World Cup squad — Pickford, Rose, Walker, Alli, Sterling, Vardy and Kane.
That may sound bleak but here’s the thing, the so-called ‘Golden Generation’ never even reached a semi-final.
Perhaps an unburdened squad, free from the superstar egos and pressure of living up to intense expectation, may actually perform better on the big stage?
We can’t do any worse than the last couple of World Cups…