World Cup: Gerrard defends England's 'Golden Generation'
It's 'nonsense' to say England players don't care insists captain ahead of vital qualifiers
STEVEN GERRARD has dismissed as "nonsense" claims that England players don't care about international success. It's an accusation that has long been levelled at the country's finest, particularly the so-called Golden Generation that emerged a decade ago.
Gerrard was one of that crop, a band of brothers blessed – so we were told – with once-in-a-lifetime talent. Gerrard, together with David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, John Terry and Ashley Cole and Michael Owen, were destined to bring back the glory years to England. But it never quite turned out like that, and the best England managed were World Cup quarter-finals in 2002 and 2006.
The nadir came a couple of years later when the Three Lions failed to reach Euro 2008, an embarrassment that cost manager Steve McClaren his job.
Since then Fabio Capello and now Roy Hodgson have striven to produce a team of decent international class, but as England fans saw last month in the Ukraine that ambition remains out of reach.
Not surprisingly the Golden Generation is now mocked as the Gormless Generation but in an interview with the Daily Mirror England captain Steven Gerrard said every player who pulls on an England shirt does so with pride. "The pain and the agony... how long that lasted after we didn't qualify for Euro 2008," mused Gerrard. "I wish you could bottle that and show it to people who say those things and doubt how much we care. We care. Trust me, we care. No one cares more than the players."
When it was suggested that perhaps the players care more about their club than their country, Gerrard snapped: "It's nonsense to say that."
He continued: "It's a shame the supporters and certain people can't go into the dressing room and see how we prepare and how much we want this... we understand the fans and media are passionate, but that's certainly the case in the dressing room."
Alas "passion" will only take a team so far on the pitch, whereas technique is what wins games. It's that which England have been lacking under Roy Hodgson with former England striker turned pundit Gary Linker ridiculing their ability to pass the ball in last month's bore draw with Ukraine.
England have a crucial week ahead of them with a World Cup qualification games against Montenegro on Friday and then Poland the following Tuesday. Win both matches and the Three Lions will finish top of Group H, but despite the games being at Wembley few fans approach the games with complete confidence after England's indifferent form over the last 12 months. The fact that their most consistent player, Ashley Cole, is out of Friday's clash with a rib injury is further cause for concern, though his replacement, Kieran Gibbs, has enjoyed a solid start to this season with league leaders Arsenal.
Gerrard is confident England will finish top of the group, declaring "I've respect for the teams we have to play. But I've even more respect for the players we have here. We will do this job." ·