International football returns this week with friendlies and World Cup qualifiers meaning a break in domestic action.
All eyes will be on England over the next ten days, with a friendly fixture against age-old rivals Germany before the Three Lions take on Lithuania at Wembley in a qualifier.
Gareth Southgate has raised some eyebrows with his latest squad selection, with the former defender looking to forge a group that is capable of making an impact in Russia next year.
While the qualifying process looks likely to be a mere formality as usual, changing the English mentality at major tournaments will be the manager’s major challenge.
The Three Lions continued their recent awful returns at international competitions with a poor showing in France last summer, with Iceland eliminating England in the first knockout round at Euro 2016.
While even the Best Betting Websites may well have have backed Roy Hodgson’s men to have won that game, there is no escaping that England have under-performed consistently over the last 20 years.
Southgate has been handed the Three Lions job on a permanent basis and will need to look to the future, rather than the short-term, if he is to change a losing habit.
This means incorporating young players into his international squad and allowing them to develop together over time.
The latest group that Southgate has selected has omitted a number of veteran faces and included young talents in their place.
While Wayne Rooney’s international career looks all-but over after his latest shun, Theo Walcott was also left out of the 26-man group.
New inclusions included West Brom midfielder Jake Livermore and Southampton pair James Ward-Prowse and Nathan Redmond, while West Ham’s Michail Antonio also and Burnley’s Michael Keane both retain their places.
With players from Manchester United and Arsenal left out at the expense of those plying their trade at traditionally smaller clubs, Southgate has shown that he is not going to pick on reputation alone.
The current England group is made up of plenty of young players, with hopes among the Three Lions supporters that the likes of Dele Alli, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard can go on to become household names at international level.
There has never been a lack of talent in the England ranks and over the years the British country has produced some sublime players.
However, the major challenge that Southgate will have to overcome is a frail mentality and under-performance at major tournaments.
Getting the feel-good factor around Wembley and building up young English stars’ experience in the international game will be key to progressing towards relative success and bucking a recent disappointing trend at major tournaments in Russia next year.
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