THE BLOG

England's Centre-Backs and the Death of the Golden Generation

24/03/2013 20:33 GMT | Updated 23/05/2013 10:12 BST

Rio Ferdinand was called up to Roy Hodgson's England squad. Sir Alex Ferguson advised Rio Ferdinand to not accept the call up to Roy Hodgson's England squad. Rio Ferdinand didn't accept the call up to Roy Hodgson's England squad.

These three sentences have formed a theme of footballing discourse for the week, focussing on the honour that players should feel in representing their country, with Gary Lineker insisting that 'internationals are the highest stage to play on'. What the petty Twitter debates between Lineker, Stan Collymore and Rio Ferdinand failed to miss, though, is the wider implication for the future of English defending.

Ferdinand, a fully paid up member to the 'Golden Generation' that dominated the England team for most of the last decade, seems now to have followed his former defensive partner John Terry into the pasture of former England players. This, aside from press furore, leaves England some lengthy distance from the possibly excellent quartet of Ferdinand, Terry, Carragher and Sol Campbell that could have formed a centre-back partnership ten years ago.

With some members of the golden generation, most notably Gerrard and Lampard, clinging on and the tenacity of Jack Wilshere replacing Paul Scholes, the losses from the Golden Generation are yet to be keenly felt in many areas of the squad. The awakening to a post-golden generation England now comes when raking through the unimpressive nature of England's centre-back options.

From the steady flow of four world-leading and three Champions League winning defenders ten years ago, England are now faced with Joleon Lescott, a substitute at Manchester City, Phil Jagielka, a steady if unspectacular defender, an often injured but talented Gary Cahill, the strong but inexperienced Steven Caulker and the Manchester United youngsters Chris Smalling and Phil Jones.

Whilst with Caulker, Smalling and Jones illustrating a continued ability to produce promising young defenders, the three charged with overseeing the transitional period between Golden Generation and the next offer uncertainty to Roy Hodgson, surrounding just how accomplished his defensive line-up at next year's World Cup can be.

Of course, a tonic of relativity must be added here, with Cahill himself a Champions League winner and Lescott a Premier League winner, however, the general quality of senior England centre-backs, in the prime of their career, differs markedly from Golden Generation quartet. The issue is further compounded when looking across to our European neighbours.

Spain, current holders of everything, can choose from Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique and Carlos Puyol, with Bayern's excellent Javi Martinez on the fringes. Italy have the Juventus trio of Georgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci. Further down the scale, even Belgium see a steady wealth of options in Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelan and Jan Vertonghen.

The declining trend is clear and, despite a number of solid options, we are now left without any central defenders featuring regularly among the best teams in the world. The fortunate and defensively wealthy era of the Golden Generation is over, if not coming to a speedy close, now England must make the best out of the current transitional generation. Expectations, though, must be toned down.