Rarely have the fortunes of a professional footballer been turned so rapidly upon their head.
Flash back to June of this year and Andros Townsend had just been relegated with Queens Park Rangers and banned from England’s U21 squad for breaching betting laws.
Fast-forward to November and Townsend is an established full England international, underlining his credentials for a place in Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad with another exciting and mature performance against an admittedly weakened German side.
Despite losing the game 1-0, Townsend gave England fans at least some reason to be optimistic about next summer’s tournament. His pace and fearlessness appeared to have the German defenders genuinely concerned as he constantly threatened to haul England back into the game.
Unfortunately, the closest the Spurs winger got to levelling the game was an audacious effort cutting in from the right flank that clipped the post, leaving England fans disappointed as they reflected on back to back defeats at Wembley for the first time since 1977.
Nevertheless, Roy Hodgson should take note of Townsend’s meteoric rise and his fast adaption to life as an international player when selecting his 23-man squad for the World Cup.
The difference in attitudes towards youth could hardly be more dramatic than those displayed by the two sides at Wembley last night. Germany are fearless in their promotion and nurturing of young domestic talent, whereas England continue to cling to the fast fading lights of the so-called ‘Golden Generation.’
The likes of Lampard and Gerrard have never come close to fulfilling the expectations placed upon them when they first broke into the international set up. Now is the time for change, and Hodgson must be ruthless with his squad selection to ensure the best possible side is taken to Brazil next summer.
Townsend was not the only youngster to impress for England. Southampton youngster Adam Lallana also shone on his second appearance for the national side, whilst Ross Barkley’s short cameo suggested enough that he ought to be considered.
Elsewhere, England under 21’s were merciless in their record 9-0 demolition of minnows San Marino. Tom Ince, Raheem Sterling and Ravel Morrison are also names Hodgson ought to remember come next May.
This is not to suggest that the current generation of England players have nothing left to give to the Three Lions cause.
Wayne Rooney will remain England’s talisman for the foreseeable future, whilst Joe Hart showed he still has what it takes to perform at the highest level and ought to be first choice ahead of the likes of Fraser Forster and Ben Foster in goal.
Perhaps the future is not as bleak for England as some have suggested, and if Hodgson gets his selection right, England could yet shine in Rio.