Andros Townsend Is a Small Glimmer of Hope for England's Suspect Future

16/10/2013 17:40 BST | Updated 16/12/2013 10:12 GMT

It was an international debut to remember for Andros Townsend with a man of the match performance against Montenegro and a brilliant solo goal to boot. He has shown England fans that despite criticisms of the system, promising young players are making it through and impressing.

Roy Hodgson showed an enormous amount of faith to start Townsend in such a crucial game - it was a risk, but one which paid off. Leighton Baines went on to mention the impact that some of the younger players have had on the England squad and said in an interview:

"The emergence of the younger players has brought that fresh blood and excitement to the squad. That combines with the experience of some of the other players, which is vital in big competitions like the World Cup. If we get the blend right, it puts us in a good position to really go and do something."

Baines' Everton teammate Ross Barkley is among the influx of promising youngsters and after a stellar start to the season, finds himself playing regularly under new boss Roberto Martinez. Liverpool's Raheem Sterling also finds himself in the squad which relies heavily on inexperienced yet exciting youth in the attacking midfield positions.

With Townsend, Barkley and Sterling in the senior squad, England's U21s shortcomings in Israel during the U21 European Championships in the summer seem to be a distant memory. None of the three travelled to Israel for that forgettable tournament for English football after the side managed by Stuart Pearce crashed out ungracefully, losing all three games and only scoring the one goal.

Pearce, who has since been relieved of his duties, was quick to criticise the attitude of his squad during the tournament and the nation looked on fearing the worst for England's future. It was also made worse by the sheer wealth of talent on display by eventual winners Spain. People were starting to understand their previous ignorance - England are miles behind the rest.

But how far behind are they actually? The U21s' well below-par performances in the summer may have certainly suggested so, but that squad was missing a notable amount of England's best young talents. Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Phil Jones - three of England's brightest prospects - were the most sorely missed absentees. Their absence raised questions about how their involvement in the senior squad perhaps makes them look down on the U21s, a thought that Stuart Pearce was vocal about after his dismissal.

"Once they go through the golden ivory towers of the seniors, they don't want to come and play in the U21s any more."

Whether or not that is the case, what can be taken from this is that England's talent pool isn't as bad as everyone thinks. Jack Butland, Steven Caulker, Jonjo Shelvey and Wilfried Zaha, as well as those I have previously mentioned, all show that there is hope yet for England's future footballing prospects.

However, what seems to be the main problem for the senior side is an over-reliance on their now ageing central midfield which is now facing a sudden transition. At one point, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard were two of the world's finest footballing talents and while they still do a job and offer valuable experience as leaders to the younger stars, they are both well into their 30's. It wouldn't be a surprise to see at least one of them retire from international football after Brazil 2014.

Once they retire, they will leave two huge voids in the England team which will take a good few years to replace properly. Looking at the current squad for England's final World Cup Qualifiers, the central midfield options are Gerrard, 33, Lampard, 35, Carrick, 32, Wilshere 21, and Barkley, 19. The age gap between the three most senior midfielders and the next crop of players is huge. There is a whole generation missing there and at the moment, those present are either past, or still a few years away from their prime.

There is a yawning chasm here between experience and inexperience, one which the best national sides in the world do not have. So while it is exciting to see talent such as Townsend breaking through into the Spurs team and now national fold alongside many others, there are still some major holes to fill. What is true though, is that this missing generation of players in their prime will mean that England still have a long wait to challenge for the World or European Cup.

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