Darren Anderton represented England on 30 occasions, scoring seven goals, and played in the 1998 World Cup in France.
After discussing former club Tottenham in part one of our bwin interview, the 46-year-old offers his thoughts on the national team’s prospects at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, which starts on Thursday, in the second episode.
England World Cup squad
How would you assess England’s squad as a whole?
I think England’s World Cup squad looks strong. There’s plenty of quality and there’s lots of goals. It’s a squad that should progress beyond the group stage quite comfortably.
Are there any surprises in the squad?
[Trent] Alexander-Arnold has made a late charge to get into the squad, but he’s come on leaps and bounds this season. He’s been a big part of Liverpool’s success and played a role in their Champions League progress too. Having not been there before, he will come in without fear and sometimes you need a player like that.
Ashley Young probably was surprised himself that he’s going to the World Cup. He’s had a great season for Manchester United and he’s come in out of the wilderness just at the right time. It shows the door is never closed and it’s never too late.
I was a little surprised to see [Ruben] Loftus-Cheek make the World Cup squad, though he’s had a good season at Crystal Palace when he’s been fit. He was outstanding in the international friendlies earlier in the season and that must have made a lasting impression on [Gareth] Southgate.
Are Adam Lallana and Jack Wilshere unlucky not to be make the squad?
I think Adam Lallana not being involved at the World Cup is very strange. He’s been injured and out for a while, but I think he would bring something different and a bit of guile to that midfield. Anyone who has that quality to make a difference in the final third is a must so I was shocked to see him not make the cut.
I think Jack Wilshere is very unlucky not to be in the World Cup squad. I would have taken Wilshere to the tournament. I’m all about quality and you need players who can retain possession, see that killer pass in the final third and execute it perfectly. Wilshere is that sort of player so I think he should be at the World Cup this summer. His injury problems shouldn’t be a concern, I missed several months of the seasons before major tournaments and turned up as fresh as a daisy.
What do you think to the decision to leave out Joe Hart?
I’m very surprised Joe Hart isn’t part of the World Cup squad. He’s made a few mistakes, but I think his experience would have been valuable for the younger goalkeepers even if he didn’t necessarily play himself.
[Jack] Butland, [Jordn] Pickford and [Nick] Pope have all had good seasons, but the World Cup is the biggest stage in football and they don’t have any experience to call upon. I think Joe Hart should have been there for sure and he will be very disappointed.
Is Danny Rose fortunate to be in the squad?
I think Danny Rose is a little fortunate to be in the World Cup squad because he hasn’t played much for Tottenham this season. He’s had a couple of injuries and his mouth has got him into trouble once or twice, but he has earned his place in the side based of his past performances for club and country. He’s been one of England’s best players in the last couple of years so he deserves to be there.
It’s a very inexperienced side. Are you excited for what the future holds?
The squad is a little inexperienced and it’s a very young side, but it’s very exciting and England will hopefully reap the rewards of throwing them into the tournament in future competitions. If you’re good enough, you’re old enough. Southgate has picked players based on form, regardless of whether they’re young or nearing the end of their career.
Do you think England could have picked a wildcard like Ryan Sessegnon?
I don’t agree with taking a wildcard to a World Cup for the sake of it. There’s been talk about taking a young wildcard like Ryan Sessegnon, but the squad is already very young and he wouldn’t have got a game. We tried it with Theo Walcott and he never got near the pitch. I don’t know why Walcott was at that tournament because you need to earn your place. I wouldn’t want to see us make the same mistake twice.
Pickford played ahead of Butland against Nigeria. Who should start in the World Cup?
I think Butland should be England’s first choice goalkeeper at the World Cup. I think Butland is a top goalkeeper and he has more Premier League experience so he is used to the pressure of the spotlight. He’s less likely to be a deer in the headlights. Neither Pickford or Butland would let us down at the World Cup and that’s why Joe Hart is on holiday this summer instead of being in Russia.
Cahill started alongside Walker and Stones in defence. Who would you play in defence this summer?
Harry Maguire is well suited to international football and I love the way he comes out with the ball, which is important when you’re playing the system that Southgate will look for this summer. Stones tries to do something similar, but he takes too many risks.
Walker has played well as a makeshift central defender, but I think we will miss him going forwards. I think he’s really dangerous as a full-back and it’s a little wasted to see him in defence instead. It’s a worry when you need to play individuals out of position to shoehorn them into the team. He could be targeted by the better teams as England progress in central defence.
There might be questions about whether Gary Cahill should be in there, but he’s very experienced and he’s a leader. This young team will need that and he never lets you down.
Alli and Lingard started together against Nigeria. Is this how England will line-up at the World Cup?
I would like to see both Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard start at the World Cup. I think Alli is a big-game player and the games don’t get bigger than the World Cup. He’s perhaps had a quieter season than the previous year, but he’s still a star in the making. Lingard had a very good season at Manchester United. He’s taken the bull by the horns and he’s been their main man at times. He’s in good form and you need players in form if you’re to reach the latter stages.
I think England will drop one of them when we play the better opposition so that we’re more defensively sound. Southgate will take into account the relationship that Alli has with Kane while they’re at Tottenham and that will give him the edge over Lingard.
How important are the friendlies ahead of the World Cup?
I think you need to use the friendlies before the World Cup to play your best XI you’d like to use throughout the tournament. You need that continuity because the players aren’t used to being on the field together. You need to build the relationships on the pitch, developing that team instinct and speed of thought by taking advantage of every opportunity, even if that means a lot of the guys not getting a game.
What do you think to England choosing Nigeria and Costa Rica?
I think it’s important to choose the right teams in the friendlies before the World Cup and I would like to see England play against tougher opposition. You want teams where you can get the confidence up by winning and scoring a few goals, but it’s also good to get a test. There’s not too much value in beating teams you expect to beat if you fall apart against better opposition. You just want to get through the games without any injuries and with good performances, the results aren’t necessarily important.
Raheem Sterling has seen a lot of negative press prior to the World Cup. Do you think this could play on his mind in the lead up to the tournament?
Sterling has become a very important player for England, having improved a lot under [Pep] Guardiola at Manchester City. He frightens teams with his pace and his directness, though his final ball could be better. He’s attracting a fair bit of negative press at the moment, but he’s a very mentally strong player. It’s not something he wouldn’t have experienced before and I don’t think it will phase him.
The English press always seem to criticise its players around big tournaments. Why do you think this is?
The World Cup is huge news and the press always want to get involved because it sells. The press is always hoping for something and there’s always a player who takes the brunt of that. Obviously, there was the [Paul] Gascoigne and [Teddy] Sheringham situation when I played. It’s a real shame but it’s all a part of representing your country and hopefully the players will have learned from these mistakes to keep their noses clean during the World Cup.
Gerrard, Lampard and Ferdinand said the Golden Generation was wasted because of club rivalries in the Premier League. What do you think to this?
I don’t agree with the likes of Gerrard and Ferdinand who have said the Golden Generation failed because of the fear of helping out other Premier League rivals. I think the Golden Generation failed because they were a team of individuals with a lot of egos and a lot of self-importance. I think Sven-Goran Eriksson had a big part to play in that mentality, who allowed attention to shift away from the football and what was best for the team.
You compare the individuals of the Golden Generation to the teams I played in and they were all team players, with captains all over the pitch who were all about what was best for the team. Southgate was a part of those teams, too, and he will know he needs to return that mentality to the side if they’re to be successful. It was the nights out and social events that created that club-level togetherness at international level so I don’t think the players will be bored this summer.
Who do you think will win the World Cup?
I think Germany will win the World Cup and it’s between [Antoine] Griezmann or Neymar to win the Golden Boot.
You played with Gareth Southgate at World Cup 1998. Did you think he would go on to become a successful manager?
I think I could tell as far back as 1998 that Southgate had the potential to become a good manager. He was a great player and always very sensible, astute and studied football. He had fantastic knowledge of the game and he could always read the play very well. I think we can see that in his management career too. We play good football, taking our time and patiently pulling apart opposition rather than playing direct.
What would be considered a success for Gareth Southgate at the World Cup?
I think the quarter-finals should be considered a success for this young England team. It would be embarrassing if we don’t get through this group and we should do it comfortably along with Belgium. It’s then a knockout competition and if England can ride their luck then who knows how far they can progress. You only need to look at Portugal winning the European Championships who somehow managed to win the trophy, but that’s the nature of knockout football.
Is there a danger Southgate will be sacked if England under-perform?
I don’t think Southgate should be concerned about his losing his job if England don’t reach the quarter-finals. It’s a young squad and it’s a group of players who will improve over time. I think there’s a long-term plan and I think Southgate is very much a part of that. Fingers crossed England will have a successful World Cup and Southgate will continue to build the squad for future tournaments.
Is it important for the England manager to be English?
I’m very much a traditionalist so I think that the England manager should be English. The players need to be English so it shouldn’t be any different for the manager. There’s plenty of English coaches around who can do the job and I think it’s important they know they can get the England job one day if they’re successful.