Former Tottenham centre back Ledley King has backed a number of English defenders to become top class players for club and country.
England's 1-0 win over Norway wasn't quite the rebound performance that fans expected after crashing out of the World Cup in the group stage. Wayne Rooney's penalty handed Roy Hodgson's side the win, but it was another disappointing display from the Three Lions.
Whilst some are questioning Hodgson's reign, former England centre back Ledley King has offered some positives today - by praising a number of young defenders. King is looking to future after England moves on from the likes of John Terry and Rio Ferdinand, who he played with at international level, and believes the likes of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, John Stones, Calum Chambers, Steven Caulker and Eric Dier could be top class defenders in time.
"There's no reason why in two or three years' time we couldn't see a generation of defenders every bit as good as mine," said King. "I think in my time we were fortunate to have some top class defenders. It was probably one of England's strongest positions. We had a number of good players there."
"But things change. At the moment we are an exciting team going forward. We have good young players in forward positions. But there are good young players that can in the future hopefully be top players. Players like Chris Smalling and Phil Jones at Manchester United. I expect them to improve under Louis Van Gaal.
"[John] Stones at Everton, Calum Chambers, Steven Caulker. I'm going to keep an eye out for Eric Dier as well.These are players who've got big futures and hopefully can be the commanding centre backs that you need in a national team. It's up to the rest of the players to push for spots in the team as well. Young players need time and the experience of playing in the team."
Smalling and Jones have seen their careers stagnate somewhat over the last 12 to 18 months at United, but should play big roles in van Gaal's defence given the lack of numbers there at Old Trafford. Both need to find their true positions having played at right back, centre back and in Jones' case, even in midfield.
Everton star Stones earned his first start for England on Wednesday and continues to show his ability for the Toffees, whilst new Arsenal signing Chambers has impressed whilst filling in at centre back despite being a right back by nature. Caulker suffered relegation with Cardiff last season but has returned to the top flight with Queens Park Rangers, and with Harry Redknapp's defence struggling so far, he may slip behind Dier in the pecking order if that continues, who has been one of Tottenham's top performers so far this season.
With regular first team football, all six of the highlighted players should be England players for years to come. Stones and Chambers look to be potential regulars, but the likes of Jones and Smalling have big seasons ahead of them if they are to prove that they can be important players for England in the future.