Roy Hodgson will turn to the young pretenders driving Tottenham Hotspur’s Premier League title challenge for Saturday evening’s game after insisting that England’s emerging talents can deliver the kind of international success enjoyed by Germany in recent years.
England face the world champions at the Olympic Stadium with a starting XI that can lay claim to a total of just 161 caps, with the four Spurs selections – Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier and Danny Rose – accounting for just 14 of those appearances.
Yet having witnessed Germany’s development since Joachim Löw succeeded Jürgen Klinsmann as coach in 2006, Hodgson believes that his current crop, led by Tottenham’s rising stars, can deliver the success that has eluded England for half a century.
“I personally believe there’s a platform now of players coming through who could develop into really good-quality European players and help the team and the country, [at] some stage in the future, to win something,” Hodgson said. “You can’t make a clear comparison with Germany because you can’t guarantee it will happen for us, too.
“All we can do is give the players the encouragement they need, the coaching they need and the opportunity. Then they have to take it, as the top players of the past did.
“Joachim Löw gave X, Y and Z chances, they had no experience, but he believed in their talent, and look how they took their chance. We have to believe the same will happen with ours, because there is no reason not to.”
Fifty years on from England’s one and only major international triumph, you can expect plenty of reminders in the coming months that the success in 1966 was as much as a victory for West Ham United as England itself.
Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters have been immortalised for their part in England’s World Cup glory, most notably in the final itself against West Germany, but while attributing the lion’s share of the plaudits to three West Ham players may unfairly overlook the contributions of the rest of Alf Ramsey’s players, the claret-and-blue thread which ran through the team was undoubtedly significant in the final reckoning.
All successful international teams benefit from a bedrock of players from one club. Spain’s dominance over recent years has coincided with Barcelona producing arguably the most impressive club team of all time, while Germany’s World Cup victory in Brazil two years ago was due in no small part to the impact of a Bayern Munich contingent including Manuel Neuer, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, Thomas Müller, Toni Kroos and Mario Götze.
England will come up against the bulk of that Bayern engine room in Berlin but they do so with the green shoots of their own one-club nursery of talent.
Kane, Dier, Alli and Rose will all start against the Germans, ensuring that Tottenham have four players on the pitch against Löw’s team.
Rose will make his debut at left-back following the injury-enforced withdrawal of Southampton’s Ryan Bertrand and, with Luke Shaw unlikely to return in time from a broken leg and Everton’s Leighton Baines not even selected for this squad, the Spurs full-back now has the opportunity to make the position his own ahead of Euro 2016 by impressing against the Germans, and against the Netherlands at Wembley on Tuesday.
Kane, Dier and Alli, all so crucial for Mauricio Pochettino’s team this season, have now become almost certain starters against Russia in Marseille on 11 June, so a fourth Spurs player in Rose would only strengthen the Tottenham influence. Between the four of them, Kane, Alli, Dier and Rose have just 14 caps, so it would be a bold move by Hodgson to unleash the quartet in France.
“I had a conversation with Stuart Lancaster recently,” Hodgson said. “You don’t compare caps in football so often, but they do in rugby, so I wondered how many caps we do have in this team.
“Wayne Rooney distorts the number of caps we have, but at the moment, we have a lot of players at the start of their careers trying to earn some caps. We have quite a few under 10, but you can’t accelerate the process. The experience they get in the Premier League and Champions League accelerates the progress, but you need to play international matches and tournaments as well.”
Kane’s goalscoring form for Tottenham has nudged Rooney out of the picture and the United forward must now accept that his battle is all about earning the right to partner the 22-year-old.
Dier has moved into defensive midfield this season and been outstanding, while Alli is a potential PFA Young Player of the Year, having made the step up from League One MK Dons without so much as a blink of an eye.
“Dier has played his role particularly well this season for Tottenham,” Hodgson said. “In the game we played against France recently, he did that role really well. He reads the danger and has done it terrifically well this season.
“I’ve been very impressed so have called him up with [Danny] Drinkwater, who does a similar job for Leicester – an all-round midfield player in the holding position.
“They’re still in the shadows of Jack Wilshere, who did so well for us before his injury, but if all three were available, that would be a nice headache because there might not be space for all three.”
Despite cruising through their Euro 2016 qualification group with a 100 per cent winning record during the 10-game campaign, there is a danger that the untroubled nature of the procession to France could mask the questions that remain unanswered about England’s credentials.
If last November’s friendly victory against France is discounted – the French were clearly distracted by the terrorist atrocities in Paris just four days earlier and unsurprisingly focused on anything but a game of football – then you have to go back over three years for the last win against an opponent of note.
Some would argue that the qualification victory in Switzerland in September 2014 was a genuine scalp for Hodgson’s players, but the reality is that every major opponent England have faced since defeating Brazil at Wembley in February 2013 has emerged with either or a win or draw.
Italy, Spain, Uruguay and Germany have all avoided defeat against England during the past three years, so it would be an achievement, and a well-timed one at that, if the world champions are defeated in the Olympic Stadium.
“After this game, we also have to play Holland and Portugal before Euro 2016, so we are giving the players the opportunity to be tested against the very best teams,” Hodgson said.
“These matches will be very important occasions and there’s no doubt what I’ve seen in training this week and what I see in these games will have an impact [on the make-up of the final 23-man squad for the Euros].
“It’s by no means a be-all and end-all situation but we are taking the games very seriously.”