Gareth Southgate said the club rivalries that tainted England’s chances in the era of Rio Ferdinand and Steven Gerrard will not be an issue for his players as they aim to “make their own history”.
Ferdinand, Gerrard and former team-mate Frank Lampard spoke publicly in 2017 about how communication was strained between England players plying their trade at rival Premier League clubs, suggesting the Three Lions’ ‘Golden Generation’ lacked cohesion.
Those comments have been used by Southgate to help his players understand the importance of creating camaraderie in the England set-up.
“We have listened to compelling interviews from Rio and Frank and Steven and we’ve used those to say we’ve got to make sure we put those club situations to one side, but I don’t think there is that intense rivalry at the moment between our top clubs that there was then,” said Southgate.
“The past can help us and inform us but it shouldn’t shape us and we’ve got to be our own team. We’ve spoken at length this week about how we’re really proud to represent everybody but really the guy next to you is the most important one going into this tournament.
“This is a diverse team with different sets of skills and they’ve got a chance to make their own history. Whenever you’re in an England shirt you have an opportunity to make history.”
Southgate was happy to hear the likes of Dele Alli stating confidence in England’s chances of progressing to the final in Moscow.
“Why would I limit what they feel is possible?” he said. “My job is to allow people to dream. Make the impossible seem possible. None of us are going to get excited or get out of bed just for getting out of the group. They are at an age and have hunger, enthusiasm and no little quality so they can certainly keep improving.”
Ruben Loftus-Cheek is one of the young players in Southgate’s squad and he suggested he might leave Chelsea in order to secure regular first-team football after the World Cup.
“Going forward I’ve really realised the importance of playing regularly for my own progress and development,” said Loftus-Cheek, who made 24 Premier League appearances on loan at Crystal Palace last season, helping the Eagles avoid relegation.
“I felt like I got better and better every game at Palace so playing regularly is the key going forward and that will help me make my decision after the World Cup.”