MUMBAI (Reuters) - England’s age-group teams might have dazzled on the global stage in various youth tournaments in 2017 but the senior side is not yet of a standard to be a serious title contender at next year’s World Cup, former striker Alan Shearer told Reuters.
Gareth Southgate’s side went unbeaten in their qualifying campaign for Russia but has been criticised for lacking a creative spark after scoring only 18 goals in 10 games in a group containing lowly-ranked Lithuania and Malta.
“I don’t expect us to win the World Cup in Russia next year, even with the success of our teams underneath that level, be it the under-21s, the under-19s or the under-17s,” Shearer said in an interview from Bengaluru.
“I don’t see us going to Russia and winning the tournament. No.”
England’s recent record at the quadrennial showpiece event has not been inspiring with the 1966 champions, who reached the quarter-finals in 2002 and 2006, exiting at the round of 16 stage in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Their worst performance came at the last edition in Brazil when they failed to get past the group stage, while the Euro 2016 exit at the round of 16 stage after defeat to Iceland left little optimism among England’s supporters.
Shearer, who was in India for a Premier League fan park event where roughly 40,000 spectators watched the top matches of the weekend on a giant screen, thinks that will prove to be a nadir.
“What I would expect is to see an improvement on what we saw in France in the European Championships 18 months ago,” said Shearer, who scored 30 goals in 63 appearances for England.
“It shouldn’t be too difficult to improve on that when you consider the performance we had in the game against Iceland when we were knocked out of the tournament.
“Very much similar to other campaigns when we had results in the qualifiers. We are there now but we have to go one step further and we have to show improvement.”
In stark contrast to the national side, the England Under-20s won the World Cup in South Korea in June before their Under-19 team became European champions in Georgia the following month.
The young Lions have also won the Toulon Tournament this year and are through to the last 16 of the ongoing Under-17 World Cup in India.
Shearer, who scored twice in four appearances at the 1998 World Cup finals in France, felt one of the reasons why England were unsuccessful at the top level was because young English players are not playing in the Premier League.
“Part of the problem is lot of these boys in the league teams with England are not getting the chance to play at the club level,” Shearer said.
“Clubs like Man City, United, Chelsea and Arsenal tend to spend big on foreign players who the managers or the clubs feel are pretty much guaranteed for success. It’s difficult for these managers as they have to deliver success tomorrow.
“To put in a young player, he needs time to settle and feel his way into the Premier League and clubs are not prepared to do that.”
Shearer has, however, backed former team mate Southgate to succeed as the national team manager.
“I am pleased that we were able to give an English player, an young English coach the opportunity to try and do it at that level,” Shearer said.
“More often than not over the past years we have gone and spent big on foreign managers and they haven’t proved successful at all.
“I am pleased we have given the job to an English guy who has played in tournaments, I have played with Gareth in tournaments also, so he is aware what tournament football is about and what you need to try and do to get to the latter stages. Hopefully that will stand him in good stead.”
Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by Nick Mulvenney