Roy Hodgson has backed England’s new crop of stars to enjoy long international careers like many of the country’s co-called golden generation.
England rounded off 2015 in the best way possible on Tuesday with a 2-0 victory over France at Wembley.
The circumstances may have dictated that France were, understandably, not playing at their best, but the result was an eye-catching one – as was another statistic.
The average age of Hodgson’s starting XI at Wembley was 24 years and 113 days. It was the youngest team the England manager had fielded since he took charge over three years ago.
The size of the rebuilding task Hodgson has undertaken was underlined by the fact that just four of the players who started were in the XI that lost 2-1 to Italy in Manaus last summer.
“If you look at the players we had building up to and during the World Cup and you look at the players now – there’s not many survivors,” the England manager said.
“We are building a team hopefully a good future for English football.”
The average age of the team that lost to the Italians in the jungle was almost 27.
Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard have since retired from international duty while Ashley Cole called it a day after hearing he had been left out of the World Cup squad.
Between them, those three players amassed 327 caps – some 30 more than Tuesday’s entire team.
A lack of experience in the ranks has not gone unnoticed by Hodgson, but the England manager does not seem perturbed by it either.
The 68-year-old has faith in his youngsters, and after losing just one match – to European champions Spain – since the World Cup, few can blame him.
The likes of Raheem Sterling, John Stones, Ross Barkley and Harry Kane have impressed, and with Eric Dier and Dele Alli doing well on their full debuts against France, there is a feeling within the camp that this group can go on to enjoy long and successful international careers.
“One defeat in 17 games is excellent,” Hodgson said, reflecting on England’s post-World Cup record.
“Even if we had lost against France I would still have said it’s been a good year and a half since the World Cup. We have made a lot of strides forward.
“There are a lot of young players at the moment who if they do get the experience and keep maturing, keep developing in their clubs, I think a lot of them can be hopeful of similar careers to the careers of the great players who have retired since I took over, people like John Terry, Ashley Cole, Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard.
“They’ve gone. The only one remaining from that squad really is Wayne Rooney and he has got a lot of young players around him.”
Alli was playing League One football for MK Dons, but on Tuesday he had no problems dealing with the likes of Paul Pogba, Yohan Cabaye and Morgan Schneiderlin on his full England debut.
Dier was also impressive on his first start.
The likes of Barkley, Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana started forcing their way into the England squad last year and Hodgson admits he will find it hard to whittle his Euro 2016 party down to 23 next summer.
“We tend to select (a squad for the Euros) from time to time just for the fun of it, but there’s a few more poking their noses in now,” Hodgson said.
One thing Hodgson will not lose any sleep about is if Premier League clubs veto his plan to organise a winter social.
Top-flight clubs rejected Hodgson’s request to release their England players for a bonding session to help plug the four-month gap between the last and first internationals of the year.
The England manager wants to organise a similar meeting again, but would not be concerned if it did not go ahead.
“It would be nice to have (a get together) with the players, but we aren’t going to stand or fall on one afternoon with the players for three hours,” he said.