Former England star Michael Owen believes the country’s current crop of young players is not on the same level as his generation.
Gareth Southgate has recently received plenty of praise for attempting to give younger players a chance in the senior side, with the former Middlesbrough coach in charge of the Under-21 side before succeeding Sam Allardyce.
In England’s two most recent internationals – 0-0 draws with Germany and Brazil – Southgate handed debuts to Tammy Abraham, Joe Gomez, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Dominic Solanke, while the core of the squad was made up of similarly youthful options.
Injuries forced Southgate’s hand in most situations; however his decision to include the likes of Loftus-Cheek ahead of Jack Wilshere attracted plaudits from many for sticking to his principles with respect to picking players who are appearing regularly at club level.
Other talented young players including Harry Kane and Harry Winks missed out through injury, but Owen still does not think Southgate’s charges are on the same level as the generation he was a part of.
“We’ve obviously got a lot of good players, just look at our players coming through as well,” Owen told Omnisport at the Golden Foot Hublot Award in Monaco.
“We seem to be winning every youth tournament that’s been put on at the moment, which is brilliant.
“I don’t think anyone’s ever questioned the capability or the qualities of our teams. Some of our players, going back to my generation, were winning Champions Leagues and all kinds of big trophies.
“They were some of the best players in the world. Is this generation better? I would probably say not.
“I think the likes of [Paul] Scholes, [Steven] Gerrard, [Wayne] Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, [David] Beckham, myself.
“I don’t think this generation has got as many as those types of players. However, I think they’ve still got players capable of going far in a competition, certainly much further.
“As I say, the quality of player would be the least of my worries, it would be the mentality going into a tournament and looking as if we can play as well in a competition as we do in qualification – we seem unbeatable in that.
“We shall see. I think the question mark all around England is there because we’ve all been really disappointed with the last couple of competitions.”