With Roy Hodgson’s announcement of the England squad he would be taking to the World Cup in Brazil this summer, there came a sense of dawning and with it an element of finality.
Excitement surrounded the youthful faces who stood out among the 23-man squad selected, providing, perhaps, a reminder to those older players that their time in the limelight will soon be over.
Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard are highly unlikely to play in another World Cup and while the Three Lions are by no means one of the favourites, these two head into the tournament having only really known high-profile failure at major international finals - a sad reality which contrasts starkly with their achievements at club level with Chelsea and Liverpool respectively.
Perhaps, the selection of Luke Shaw (18), Raheem Sterling (19) and Ross Barkley (20) hits home hardest with those once similarly thrust into the spotlight as wonderkids who haven’t lived up to expectations.
Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere recently sought Paul Scholes’ advice following the latter’s stinging criticism of the midfielder’s inability to improve since he was 17. Wilshere, now 22 and no stranger to injury, must start showing what all the fuss was about or risk becoming labelled a disappointment. Abject displays in Brazil will only add weight to the doubters and Wilshere must prove them wrong. Brazil is the stage to do it, when the world is watching.
Wayne Rooney may have won major titles at Manchester United, but has the man who burst onto the scene with Everton as a 16-year-old sensation predicted to rival the world’s best really reached those heights? No is the simple answer, as most clearly demonstrated by the 28-year-old’s record at World Cups, which reads zero goals scored in eight appearances.
Gerrard and Lampard have had their time with England and, unless the unexpected happens this summer, will only be able to look back on their international careers dwelling on what might have been of the ‘Golden Generation’. The performances of Rooney and Wilshere at this World Cup could just define their international reputations.