Former England defender Rio Ferdinand has said the reason that the current squad has achieved more than the ‘golden generation’, of which he was a part, and every other England team since 1966 by reaching the Euro 2020 final is that there are no egos.
England are playing in a major final for the first time in 55 years when they face Italy at Wembley on Sunday night. Many thought that drought should have ended much sooner when the national team was flush with world class talent in the mid-2000s, but that squad never got beyond a quarter-final.
Ferdinand’s generation contained legitimate all-time English legends – Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, David Beckham, Ashley Cole, John Terry, Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen and Paul Scholes. But egos were one of the things that derailed the chances of success.
Gareth Southgate’s class of 2020, which has evolved further from 2018 when this journey began, doesn’t appear to be burdened by the same behind the scenes issues. It leaves their football to do all of the talking instead.
“Squads always win you these tournaments, on the pitch and off it, and it is the same this time too. England have not only got the quality they need with this group, they have got the right attitude and ambiance as well,” Ferdinand explained in a BBC Sport column.
“We’ve got more strength in depth than I can remember us having at any previous tournament I’ve played in or watched…There are plenty of elements to it but I’d say the main one is that there are no egos allowed in this squad – instead everyone is very humble.
“We’ve got some exceptional players but Southgate has instilled a togetherness in the camp that feels different to what I’ve seen before.”
Ferdinand explained that rivalries between individual players from different clubs during the golden generation era felt ‘more intense’ than they do now. Even when potential problems have flared up, such as the brief ill-feeling between Raheem Sterling and Joe Gomez, Southgate has sorted it.
“It seems to me that they all really want to be a part of it and every single one of them is right behind him, whether they are starting matches or not. No-one is sulking if they are left out – they all want to be a part of this, I would too,” Ferdinand went on to explain.
The 81-cap defender also said that one of the main differences Southgate has brought is a more positive relationship with the media. Where the golden generation would view the press as ‘enemies’, the current boss has tried to change things.
“Having the media in and around the group, especially in Russia (2018) and since then, has built a stronger relationship. That has helped make some people’s coverage a little bit more responsible and also meant the players are less guarded in interviews,” he explained.
“I don’t see them sitting there with their shields up anymore, like I might have done in the past.”
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