England captain Wayne Rooney is excited by what the future could hold for the national side following the breakthrough of Dele Alli and Eric Dier.
Six months ago, Alli was playing League One football for MK Dons, but the midfielder did not struggle for one moment on his full international debut against France at Wembley on Tuesday.
The teenager won the ball with a crunching tackle and exchanged passes with Rooney before banging a long-range drive into the top corner in the 39th minute.
And he dispossessed Paul Pogba to set up the move that led to Rooney’s strike in the second half.
Much has been written about the paucity of home-grown talent in the English game, but Rooney believes there is a group of exciting players coming through the ranks now who can become England stars.
“That is what I have been saying throughout the last 18 months,” Rooney said.
“I know the World Cup was not great, but before the World Cup you could see the players who were coming through and training with us and I think we have come together since that World Cup and shown good signs.
“We have to get better, of course, but we are showing good signs and if we can keep improving, it is exciting for us.”
Given the emotionally-charged nature of the friendly against France, it was even more remarkable how Alli and fellow full debutant Dier stepped up to the plate.
“They handled themselves brilliantly on a difficult occasion,” said Rooney, who made his England debut at the age of 17.
“Obviously they are excited to be playing – a lot of them making their first starts for England. But it was a difficult match to come into. You have to praise them for the way they handled themselves and the way they performed was fantastic.
“I thought Dele Alli and Eric Dier did fantastically well. Dele got his goal and it was a good victory.
“Since I have been in the squad I don’t think there have been so many young players. It is really exciting.”