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England have reasons to be optimistic.

Optimism, a word that has been the catalyst to many an Englishman’s international competition campaign for the last 48 years.

England: Will football ever come home?However over the past 10 years many have argued that we would be there to merely make the numbers up; and based on results and performances who could seriously argue? ‘If only’ has been the two words most commonly used by the time English bums have hit the plane seats after an early World Cup or European Championship exit.

So after a World Cup showing that offered nothing more than a whimper, can England supporters be really be optimistic about a decent showing at Euro 2016? You can only be judged on results, and since the 0-0 bore draw versus Costa Rica in our final group game, only a 1-0 win against Norway has failed to capture the public’s imagination. A possible cup hangover could have been the catalyst to this, yet since the World Cup exit England have conceded two goals and scored a high of 15 in the six games. This is after our two influential midfielders (Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard) retired from international football.

I for one feel as positive as I have done since Euro 2004 when Wayne Rooney broke on to the scene. For once, England seem to have a young positive squad that want to play football. Not only this, but there is plan A, B and C. As Roy Hodgson adopts a diamond formation with a holding midfield player, the likes of Raheem Sterling, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Danny Welbeck and Andros Townsend will be allowed to stretch their legs to run at teams. Pace is one of the hardest things to defend against, and it is no lie that England have it in abundance.

We are still 19 months away from the European Championships and with four wins out of four, qualification is realistically three wins away. Okay, I see that our group isn’t exactly the most competitive, but I direct your attention to Europe’s best right now. Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, and Italy; none of them top their groups and only Spain and Italy are in the top two positions. This shows how difficult international games are becoming and how there are no easy games in football (nice cliche).

Over the next 19 months, I can assure you that Hodgson will be trying his hardest to get key young players settled and comfortable in to the side. Too many tournaments have gone by where England have had a strong XI but there has been an obvious lack of depth. I look at our potential 23 man squad now, and okay, there are no world stars (with the exception of Rooney) but there is 20 players all with potential. This time, we have a team.

The average age of the England team in Glasgow tonight was under 26, yet they controlled the game like seasoned international players. Hodgson has to be happy that our younger players are coming in to the side and showing no fear. Fear, a word that has been used far too much over the decades by the media. Nathaniel Clyne is the latest new recruit and still at only 23, he looked established as, dare I say, Ashley Cole did at left back in his final years.

I have long criticised James Milner in an England shirt as a player who never lives up to his club form. However, since England’s premature exit from the World Cup, I have to say he has impressed me. His form for Manchester City must obviously help this, but his experience is key and will be key if we are to make it to France.

I don’t have to name the players that we can expect to see develop over the coming years to be first team regulars, but what I can say is that I believe Hodgson is the lucky manager. I don’t want to undermine him, or disrespect everything he has accomplished in the game, however I do feel that he has now seen the ‘Golden Generation’ leave and now the young guns will blossom.

Expectations vary in our supporters, prior to England’s friendly against Scotland, I saw many tweets that predicted a defeat Hodgson’s men. Fans criticised the team because England were not, a little realism please. When England are at Wembley, visiting teams put 10 men behind the ball and breaking down 10 men can often be difficult. England switch to a counter attacking style away from home. That is how England play, they aren’t Spain, Germany or France, they are England, that is their way. Six wins in six shows it works for the English national team.

Of course, when England eventually play the likes of Italy, Spain, Netherlands and the top teams in the world, they will have to adapt accordingly.

English football is finding a way, it is adapting and in a state of transition. Football’s coming home is one of the most famous lines in English football, however it seems now the English FA now realise to bring that home, sometimes, you have to re-decorate your house. Will England get better? Yes. Out of the darkness a new hero is always born.

I have noticed other top sides play with something English players seldom seemed to have. Bravery! With the likes of Ross Barkley, Theo Walcott, Andros Townsend, Jack Wilshere, Rooney, Welbeck and Saido Berahino England seem to have found the swag that has been lacking in the team.

I believe England will be in France in 2016, the squad will be more experienced, and England will have an impressive tournament. Very bold to say now, but I see unfazed characters in the squad now full of belief.

Well done England.

Originally published at inthestandsport.com

Post written by Rob Bull
for InTheStandSport, Blog: inthestandsport.com, Twitter: @InTheStandSport

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