Carragher, it seemed, touched a nerve. These players, he was told repeatedly, are vastly superior to their predecessors. All the hope and excitement and ambition that England possessed within the Nineteen Nineties and 2000s was, we are able to see with the piercing vision of modernity, a delusion, an entire generation of idiot’s gold.
And yet that’s, greater than a bit, to rewrite the past, and to make use of that false interpretation to castigate Southgate. England has all the time produced somewhat more, and somewhat higher, players than it thinks it has. Which players from this team would get into that team is an airy, futile debate, however the central point — that perhaps the 2020s iteration of England shouldn’t be markedly different than those of the Nineteen Nineties or 2000s — is a sound one.
That the team of Steven Gerrard, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and all the remaining will be written off so easily shouldn’t be only because we all know, now, that their story led to disappointment, in anticlimax. Their failure to win a World Cup must mean they were failures as an entire.
It’s because, too, soccer wears its goldfish memory with pride, its lionization of the current necessitating a diminution of the past. That not only distorts how we come to treat teams from previous eras — even, or perhaps especially, relatively recent ones. It also affects what we expect from teams in the current. Southgate has an impressive group of players at his disposal. Expecting them to outstrip all that went before, though, is probably setting them as much as fail.
I’ll start this week by not likely answering an issue from Shawn Donnelly. “The World Cup has one of the best players, but not the world’s best coaches: A lot of the national team coaches feel second rate,” he wrote, promoting quite a number of of them in a single sentence. “That is weird and incongruent. Is there any option to fix it?”
In a word: no. And the explanation for that shouldn’t be, as is mostly the case in soccer, money. National team coaches are absurdly generously paid, each for the quantity of labor they need to do and the limited impact they’ve. It’s a problem of time.
International managers have so little time with their teams that I’d query whether Pep Guardiola or Jürgen Klopp or whoever could have a major impact on a national side. Luis Enrique, Hansi Flick and Roberto Mancini all suggest that a greater coach could make some difference, but I’m unsure Guardiola, say, could truly impress his ideas on a gaggle of players he sees five times a 12 months.