Since Gareth Southgate took over as England manager, we have seen a shift towards a new generation of footballers, with players coming in who would not have previously been considered and we seem to be looking pretty good. I can’t help but think of Germany, who did similar and then kept that young team (Ozil, Neuer, Khedira, Schweinsteiger, Podolski, Muller, Kroos, Gomez, Boeteng etc) together until their peak, when they were deserved world champions and I hope we also keep this team together for years, with minimal changes. However, I wonder it might be a case of ‘Now or never’? Might this be our last chance? The thought occurred to me while chatting to friends about the differences between my childhood in the late 70’s and early 80’s and the lives of children today and one major thing jumped out at me. I spent so much time with a football at my feet! I was far from alone in that I would come home from school and the first thing I would do was to pick up my football and go knocking on doors, looking for other kids to come out and play. We would go to a field behind my house and play football EVERY DAY! If no one came out to play, I would just go out there on my own and kick a ball against a wall. I would practice shooting or passing the ball off the wall and back. Today, we live in a different world. Firstly, we are a lot more concerned about the idea of kids playing outside unsupervised than was the case when I was a kid. Added to which the rivals for kids’ entertainment indoors is considerably greater! We could have stayed in a played with our action man or maybe played battleships. Now, kids have games consoles that provide far more entertainment. I went to school 3 miles from home and I walked there and back. Today, that is very rare. If a kid has that far to go, they will usually get dropped at, and picked up from the school gate. Many of the kids at my school (Not me TBH) would take a football to school and walk home kicking the ball along Simply having a ball at your feet so much as a youngster improves skill and ability immeasurably IMHO! I’ve also noticed something while watching quiz shows on TV. We used to be a sport-mad nation. I watch the Chase and it’s amazing how many contestants get stuck when a football question comes up. I watch Egg Heads and if sport is the category, it often gets greeted with a groan, with everyone looking at each other, saying they know nothing about sport. We live in a different world and one where kids do not spend as much time playing with a football! They would rather be playing with an x-box. Even though there is more sport on TV today, kids seem more interested in things like TOWIE, Love Island, Jordie Shore etc and anything to do with celebrities. We simply have a different, less sporty culture! There will still be kids who are playing, but nowhere near as many. I can’t recall the last time I saw a football on the field outside my house. This means we will have a smaller pool of young players to choose from and the smaller the pool, the less chance there is of great players coming through. On the flip side of course, academies mean that for those who do take it up, there is a better pathway, with better training Could the current crop of players be our best and maybe ONLY chance of winning a major tournament?