After a World Cup that produced one point, a group-stage exit and the retirement of the Golden Generation’s last-standing members, England go into a new calendar year of internationals facing a rebuild.
A new captain, a new midfield partnership that won’t work together and an archaic 4-4-2 formation will greet fans against Norway with the Three Lions 1/2 to win.
How long will it be before this supposed fresh dawn is being ushered out the door by a new one? And which players will be the face of the new era? Well, here’s five for starters:
Eric Dier – Tottenham
The former Sporting Lisbon academy graduate has made a bright start to his Premier League career, scoring two goals in two appearances while playing at centre-half and right-back.
With John Stones set to make his debut on Roy Hodgson’s right defensive flank, Dier’s versatility could see him earn a similar accolade.
James Ward-Prowse – Southampton
52 Southampton first-team appearances at the tender age of 19 shows the pedigree Ward-Prowse has and, with the ability to play centrally or out wide, possess the kind of flexibility international managers tend to lap up in their squads.
The Portsmouth-born Saint was used wisely by Mauricio Pochettino last term, as starts were tempered with subs appearances in equal measure.
As a result there aren’t many traditional stats (goals and assists) that shine through, but his 87 per cent pass success rate makes him the kind of passing midfielder England need in Steven Gerrard’s absence.
Saido Berahino – West Brom
The Burundi-born striker has made a similarly flying start to this campaign as he did the last, scoring two goals in the first three weeks of the season.
His nitrous-oxide-injected beginnings last term disappointingly, but understandably, tailed off for a man of his years. But his U21 record (seven goals in eight games) suggests he can make the switch to senior honours.
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