LIVERPOOL legends Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher have analysed England’s desperate failure at Euro 2016 – and delivered contrasting reasons for the failure of Roy Hodgson’s squad.
Carragher, who won 38 caps and played at the finals of the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, delivered a searing condemnation of the “Academy Generation” – a group of players who are too soft and have had it too easy.
While former England captain Steven Gerrard, who won 114 caps and played in several European Championship and World Cup finals, believes it is the weight of expectation on players’ shoulders which leads to damaging mistakes and creates a panic-stricken mindset.
Carragher, in his Daily Mail column, wrote: “Too soft. The more I think about England’s humiliation against Iceland, the more those two words come into my mind.
“This is what England’s players have become. The Academy Generation — for that is what they are — are soft physically and soft mentally. We saw the end result in all its gruesome detail in Nice on Monday when another major tournament ended in calamity and blame.
“Roy Hodgson, inevitably, carries the can. There was no way he could continue as England manager after the results and performances at Euro 2016 and he cannot escape the spotlight, but don’t for one moment think the players should escape liability.
“I call them the Academy Generation because they have come through in an era when footballers have never had more time being coached. At this point I want to make it clear I am not pointing the finger at academy coaches, as others will do.
“But they get ferried to football schools, they work on immaculate pitches, play in pristine training gear every day and everything is done to ensure all they have to do is focus on football. We think we are making them men but actually we are creating babies.
“Life has been too easy. They have been pampered from a young age, had money thrown at them and, when things have gone wrong, they have been told it is never their fault. Some 12- and 13-year-olds have agents now. Why?
“England were confronted by three pressure situations in Euro 2016 and each time they cracked. The first was in the final 10 minutes against Russia, when they conceded an equaliser, the second was Iceland’s throw-in and the third was when they chased an equaliser against Iceland. They had 72 minutes to get one goal but failed because of stupid decisions, stupid shots and stupid passes.
“To see it unfold was unbelievable.
“Why won’t they take responsibility? They live lives now with personal assistants, player liaison officers, nannies and agents organising every little detail for them. Some wouldn’t even know how to book a holiday or an appointment at the dentist for themselves.
“It strips character.”
Gerrard also explored the effects of psychology on players in a column for the Daily Telegraph.
He wrote: “I do not accept that the problem with English football is the players are not good enough. It is the same argument whenever we go out of a major tournament. The players are overrated, and the English Premier League is not as strong as it thinks it is.
“Nonsense. You are telling me we do not have the talent to beat Iceland? That we lost because their players and their league are better than ours?
“We were beating Germany a few months ago.
“We failed so badly on Monday night because of our poor decision-making, an inability to respond to events as they unfolded and because we repeated too many of the mistakes of the past.
Roy Hodgson has paid the price. The criticism of him is intense and he lost his job, but there is no one coming home on that plane who will feel they did themselves justice.
“But I am not going to jump on board this bandwagon attacking English players and saying how overhyped and overrated they all are.
“I have been there on the receiving end of this. It was never to the same extent as a defeat like that against Iceland, but I know exactly how those players will be feeling after disappointing in a major tournament.
“I can imagine how they were feeling as the second half continued in Nice. They knew what was in store as soon as Iceland scored their second goal.
“When England went behind, many of those players will have been thinking of the consequences of defeat as much as what to do to get back in the game.
“I hate to say it, but your mind drifts to what the coverage is going to be like back home and the level of criticism you are going to get. You cannot stop yourself. ‘What if we don’t get back into this? What will it be like if we go out here?’
“Panic sets in. The frustration takes over. You freeze and stop doing those things you know you should be. You start forcing the game, making the wrong choices with your passes, shooting from the wrong areas and letting the anxiety prevent you from doing the simple things.
“Everything you said and prepared for before the game gets forgotten. I hear people say that is a sign of mental fragility. Maybe it is, but that is what we have got with the England team created by 50 years without winning a major tournament. It’s what happens.”