The England national team has been blessed with a host of world class players since the turn of the millennia.
But the fact of the matter is, that era of English football achieved next to no real success on the pitch.
The crop of players that were supposed to bring untold levels of glory to the nation instead failed to even surpass the quarter-final stage throughout their reign, leaving fans with an acute sense of dismay and hopelessness whenever a major tournament rolled around.
A sense of hopeless that, until recently, plagued the atmosphere in the Three Lions’ camp for many a year.
However, a change in mindset under Gareth Southgate has coincided with an upturn in fortunes for the nation and England have now narrowly missed out on the last two major tournaments they have competed in.
Confidence has been restored and England head to Qatar knowing that they have a strong chance of going all the way.
But is that down to an improved squad? Or are there other factors at play?
As we enter the final international break before Qatar and World Cup fever begins to build, we thought we’d compare the England squads of then and now – how many of Southgate’s men would actually make it into a best XI from the Golden Generation?
England’s team of the 21st century
Now, before we dive in, let’s just go over a couple of housekeeping rules.
The team isn’t based off of each player’s contribution to the English national team. Instead, we’ll be creating the very best XI of Three Lions players since the turn of the century.
That way we can work out who from the current squad would actually have been good enough to feature front and centre in what should have been the golden era of England’s international ventures.
Kapish? Check out the team below.
GK – David Seaman
RB – Kyle Walker
CB – Rio Ferdinand
CB – John Terry
LB – Ashley Cole
RM – David Beckham
CM – Steven Gerrard
CM – Frank Lampard
LM – Raheem Sterling
CF – Wayne Rooney
ST – Harry Kane
Just three of England’s current crop make the team of the century with Walker, Sterling and Kane getting the nod.
Gary Neville was never really a world-leading right-back and so we could have opted for any number of English football’s marauding modern sorts. We opted for Walker purely because of his consistency at the top, with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reece James often proving a little shaky defensively.
The remainder of the defence picked itself given the calibre of player filling those positions.
I GOT BANNED (The Football Terrace)
Gerrard and Lampard got the nod over Scholes – but in truth they could be swapped out and no modern player is ever even getting close.
Whereas Sterling beats off rivals like Joe Cole to the left-midfield spot – and no, we aren’t going to do a Sven-Goran Eriksson and play Scholes there.
Rooney and Kane lead the line in attack, just beating Alan Shearer to the mark as the forward did the majority of his best work prior to 2000.