Wolves head coach Kenny Jackett today backed England to emulate the ‘Class of ‘66’ and win a major tournament.
Jackett is convinced the home nation has continued to produce world-class stars and they just need a bit of luck to follow the World Cup win 47 years ago.
This is despite concerns by FA chief executive Greg Dyke and other figures that the influx of foreign players in the Premier League is stifling the blossoming of English players.
England go into their final World Cup Group H qualifier on Tuesday needing to beat Poland to clinch a place in next year’s finals in Brazil.
A study this week showed just 31.8 per cent of minutes played in the top flight were by English players this season – a drop of around four per cent from 2007-08.
But Jackett feels the foreign invasion has helped the top English stars and things might go England’s way in a tournament soon.
“There are good English players and there always have been all down the years,” said the Watford-born Molineux boss, who won 31 caps for Wales as a player from 1982-88.
“And I feel somewhere along the line it will click for England in one of the competitions as well.
“Sometimes it’s just the law of averages and it will click - sometimes success is a bit closer than you think.
“They will get the right manager and get a bit of luck.
“We say England have been unsuccessful but they regularly get through to quarter-finals and have reached two semi-finals (the World Cup in 1990 and the European Championships in 1996).
“So if you’re in the last eight and losing on penalties - what extra would you need to find? Five per cent?
“It’s not like: ‘Christ we must change the whole structure of the game’.
“It’s quite often a small thing, or perseverance. I do think somewhere along the line it will happen.”
Jackett believes the job of managing England is a thankless task however because of the pressure to win something amid such an intense media spotlight.
But he believes every Three Lions coach goes into the job with their eyes open.
“The pressure on an England manager is considerable and you’ve got to win something,” he said.
“And all football management is a tough and a precarious business.
“That’s the nature of the job, and you know that going into it.”
Dyke believes the job of managing England has become tougher by the reduced numbers of English players in the Premier League.
Having spent eight months as reserve-team manager at Manchester City in 2007, Jackett has seen at first hand how homegrown players have found it more difficult to break through with the recruitment net for players having widened considerably at the top clubs.
“When I was at City, it was 70-30, or 60-40, something like that, towards home-grown players - England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales,” he said.
“It has transferred (towards foreigners now) but scouting now for the Premier League clubs is a worldwide job.”
Jackett believes the problem is not a shortage of world-class players, but the commitment of the players balanced against the pressure from their clubs to perform for them.
“England have had good players and if you look at the top players in the Premier League there’s English players right up there with the best,” he said.
“I also feel if the English players are playing with and against the absolute world-class players, that must be better as well.
“I know there are no English players abroad etc, but if the Premier League is the best league, you’re looking at some fantastic players in there.
“I just think it’s a question of international football (importance) as opposed to club football importance.
“That’s as much to blame, as much a part of the equation if you like, than just producing the players.
“Even go a little lower and look at the young players in the Premier League and a lot of those are English as well.
“And although there may be fewer English players playing in the Premier League, they’re playing against some of the best in the world – which has happened over the last 10 years - and that’s a good thing.”
Jackett believes taking away the foreign legion would dilute the quality of the Premier League and crowds would drop off.
“I’d suggest the balancing act is the interests of the national side against the popularity of the Premier League,” he said.
“If you just had English or British players in the Premier League is wouldn’t be of higher quality and wouldn’t be as popular. Grounds wouldn’t be as full.
“The Premier League is the stand-out league of world football.”
And the Wolves head coach believes the top flight is unaffected by the under-performance of the national side.
“The effect on the national side if England do well or if they don’t, doesn’t seem to have an effect on the Premier League, which just keeps rolling,” he said.
“The Premier League is a fantastic league and it keeps going on.”
In Jackett’s days as a player in the 1980s, some of our top talent went abroad to enhance their game.
Gary Lineker had a spell at Barcelona, Ray Wilkins and Mark Hateley went to AC Milan, Glenn Hoddle played for Monaco and Chris Waddle had a spell at Marseille.
Such are the riches on offer for Premier League players that the best English players are no longer tempted to play abroad.
“Mark Hughes, Ian Rush and Gary Lineker were the last lot and that was the last generation to go,” said Jackett.
“And the reason they haven’t gone is the fact there’s more money in England than in the other top leagues.
“It would help if they did (go abroad).
“But now foreign players are over here and there’s the Premier League and the Champions League.”
The huge wealth of the Premier League has filtered down the divisions to a certain extent.
Take a look around any training ground car park and you will see a couple of dozen luxury gas guzzlers.
Very ordinary young players are earning tens of thousands of pounds a week and driving around in flash cars without having won any honours in the game.
But Jackett firmly denied that the vastly increased wages on offer nowadays have taken away players’ hunger for the game.
“No, I don’t think so,” he said. “Footballers have always been well paid compared to the average man.
“Maybe pro rota it’s a lot more nowadays. My first car was a Toyata something!”