Gerrard 'blown away' by young talent

August 11, 2010

Steven Gerrard has been "blown away" by some of the talent his young England team-mates have displayed in training ahead of the Hungary clash.

Gerrard was famously critical of Sven-Goran Eriksson's decision to take a teenage Theo Walcott to the World Cup four years ago.

As it turns out, Walcott is now one of the youngsters with whom coach Fabio Capello is signalling a bright new dawn ahead of tonight's friendly at Wembley.

Along with Adam Johnson, Walcott is proof that receiving the axe from Capello's 30-man provisional World Cup squad last summer was not terminal to an international career.


Capello also chose three more outfield players with even less experience; 29-year-old Bobby Zamora, who hardly classes as a member of the youth brigade, and Arsenal duo Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere, who definitely do.

In addition, late yesterday afternoon there were also call-ups for under-21 keepers Scott Loach and Frankie Fielding, whose very presence at England's Watford training base will highlight how weak the Three Lions are in that department.

Yet, far from the reservations he expressed before, Gerrard has welcomed the influx of new blood.

"Games like (tonight) are a chance to give kids the opportunity and some experience," said the England captain.

"You can't put a kid out there in a World Cup situation because it's hard enough being an experienced player.

"But there isn't a tournament for two years, so they have time to bed in."

Other than Joe Hart, who will start an international for the first time, none of the youngsters will be in Capello's initial XI as the Italian ensures it is the experienced ones who face the brunt of the supporter anger that is likely to rumble down from the stands.

But, from what he has seen in training, Gerrard believes the 60,000 who are expected to be present could be in for a welcome surprise.

"I am not sure what the answer to what went wrong in the summer is," he said.

"Maybe it is the big picture, and the need to bring players through.

"But that's me going for the easy option.

"I don't know whether a country like Spain train and whether they are trained better.

"They are the benchmark. That's where we need to get.

"But I don't think there is a technical deficiency between our players and those from other teams.

"There are five or six young players in the squad who, in the last couple of days, have blown me away with the standard they are capable of."

In the immediate aftermath of England's shocking collapse in South Africa, Gerrard admitted he wondered whether it was all worthwhile.

Having skippered the Three Lions through their World Cup campaign and with Rio Ferdinand out until the middle of September at least, Gerrard knew he would be one of those held chiefly responsible for the stunning slump in fortunes, even though on a personal level, he did well.

It did not take the midfielder long to shake such thoughts out of his mind.

Life with England can undoubtedly be a hassle for all concerned.

But asked whether it is worthwhile, the answer came back without hesitation.

"I love playing for England," he said.

"I love being down in the team hotel. I love the training and the standard of the training.

"Would it be worth the hassle? If we got to the final, or the semi-final of the European Championship it would for me because I would be able to tell my kids about it.

"That is the motivation for me. England should be getting to semi-finals with the players we have.

"(Calling it a day) does cross your mind at times," he admitted.

"But very quickly you switch back to thinking of staying, hanging in there, hopefully turning things round and having a successful tournament.

"I don't see it as a hassle. I am not going to lie, since we were knocked out of the World Cup it has been really difficult to be an England player.

"We've received a lot of criticism, both as individuals and as a team group, and rightly so.

"But I have played for England for 10 years now. I would love nothing more than to go out on a high rather than looking back at memories of South Africa and how we went out losing 4-1 to Germany."