Roy Hodgson has urged English football not to hold “the sins of the fathers” against the current squad ahead of Euro 2016.
On the eve of the Three Lions’ first warm-up match of three, against Turkey at the Etihad Stadium, the national manager launched a passionate plea for perspective.
It has escaped nobody’s attention that this summer marks 50 years since England’s last, and only, major tournament victory but Hodgson wants what is an exciting and relatively unscarred squad to be judged on their own merits.
Only four of the 26 players in Hodgson’s provisional squad have more than 40 caps, compared to 13 who have 10 or fewer, and he prefers to make a clean break with the past ahead of the summer’s tournament in France.
“Maybe it might be the time to leave off these lads a little bit and stop trying to batter them with past failures of previous England teams going back to 1970 to 2014,” he said.
“We don’t want them to be fearful. This group don’t have baggage. They aren’t weighed down by the sins of the fathers. That’s what our message will be.
“Maybe we should, in actual fact, be looking forward more to what these young players could possibly do for us rather than to expect them to take some sudden revenge for the fact that the 2014 tournament was not highly regarded in terms of our performance.”
Hodgson is confident England can makes a big impression at the championship and has watched delightedly as the likes of Jamie Vardy, Harry Kane and Dele Alli have thrived at the business end of the Premier League.
But once again he placed a protective arm between his players and external expectation, stressing that it was too much, too soon to start placing the likes of Vardy along with the world elite.
“Before we can really start lifting those players up into that category they have got start having some of the CVs of players like (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic, (Lionel) Messi, (Sergio) Aguero, (Luis) Suarez, Neymar and (Cristiano) Ronaldo,” he said.
“These are people with enormous CVs, enormous records having won things whereas we are talking about players at the moment who have had a good Premier League season and done well, shown a talent, excited us and we think they are going to be good players.
“But to suddenly start saying ‘well Vardy is every bit as good as Lionel Messi’…before we can really say that then Jamie Vardy would have to be able to hold up a few trophies like Messi has done.
“We are fully aware also that they are not Messi and Ibrahimovic. They haven’t won at that level, they haven’t got a hundred caps.
“They are at the start of their career and I am rather hoping they will be seen as players at the start of their careers with great potential rather than people who are suddenly going to right the wrongs of the last 40 years.”
It would be possible to view Hodgson’s words as an attempt to downplay expectations, which rose steadily during a spotless qualifying record and peaked in March after the stirring 3-2 defeat of Germany.
But he rejected that notion, insisting youth and inexperience would not be a curb on ambition.
“I think it would be wrong if we tried to hide by saying that this tournament doesn’t matter because it’s a stepping stone,” he said.
“It will provide our players with experience and I do believe that a lot of these players will go on in future tournaments and be even better than they will be this summer.
“But that belief doesn’t alter our hopes, our ambitions and our dreams. We want to go to France with a good football team, play well and win matches. I’m not preparing the players for future tournaments. I am preparing them for this one.”