England return: can young stars become the new Spain?
It is time to stop promising and start delivering warns Wilshere, as preparations for Euro 2016 begin
It was not the homecoming England would have been hoping for. Roy Hodgson's squad touched down at Manchester on Wednesday evening without any fanfare and with no fans in attendance.
In the wake of the Three Lions' dispiriting campaign, Hodgson has vowed to continue as boss and despite carping in some quarters there have been plenty of calls for England to avoid a knee-jerk reaction.
However, there was a warning from Jack Wilshere that England's pool of young players need to turn potential into performances.
"It's easy for me to stand here and say we're young and we can go forward," said the Arsenal midfielder. "But if you look at a team like Germany, they’ve got young players who are delivering now. Time is running out for us to say we're young."
His comments are a "frank assessment" of one of England's problems says the Daily Mail.
And amid the debate about quotas and the development of players at a grassroots level, the failure of the current crop in Brazil could jeopardise their chances of getting to Russia in 2018.
"England, who started the World Cup somewhat generously ranked tenth, can expect to be overtaken by a pack including Holland, Chile, Belgium, Greece, France, Mexico and possibly even Costa Rica," notes the Mail. "Rankings will matter next year when they affect the 2018 World Cup qualifying draw. If England wallow outside Europe's top ten they are likely to be thrown into a group with a team such as Germany, Holland or Spain. So Hodgson needs his young stars to develop."
But there is reason for hope, writes Everton boss Roberto Martinez in The Times. "The way the older players have comported themselves has been a credit to the country, while the rise of exciting youngsters — Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling and the rest — has been wonderful to watch," he says.
He even draws comparisons with Spain in 2006, when a group of gifted young players leavened with some experienced heads also fell short of expectations at the World Cup. The lessons they learned at that tournament in Germany, says Martinez, inspired them to glory in their next three campaigns.
And the theme of continuity is apparent in the Daily Telegraph's England XI for 2016. Old stagers including Wayne Rooney are missing, but seven of Jason Burt's team saw meaningful action in Brazil.
And only three of the XI were not in Brazil. But Theo Walcott was injured, John Stones was in the standby squad which means Calum Chambers is the only left-field choice.
But the question remains whether the players showing promise now, will be delivering on it in 2016.