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England’s ‘Golden Generation’ have become a revolving door of managerial failures

Everton manager Frank Lampard and Villa manager Steven Gerrard look on during their Premier League match on August 13, 2022

It was probably never the best example for the ‘Golden Generation’ to see England managers cram players into different positions just to get them on the team-sheet. Whether Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard could play in the same midfield was a conundrum never solved by the most handsomely paid managers of the noughties.

As managers themselves, that generation of talent who won Premier League titles and Champions Leagues but never replicated success wearing the Three Lions are finding that winning in the dugout is not easy. Gerrard and Lampard faced each other once in the technical area, when Aston Villa defeated Everton last season, and do not look like meeting again soon with Gerrard in Saudi Arabia.

But Gerrard and Lampard are far from alone in being members of that Golden Generation hitting obstacles in management. Wayne Rooney is the latest to get sacked, with Birmingham City realising their mistake in replacing a manager who was turning results around. Gerrard lasted a year at Villa, while Lampard’s record as Chelsea caretaker last season saw him win just one game.

Wayne Rooney looks dejected as Birmingham City manager
Wayne Rooney's disastrous stint as Birmingham City manager lasted just 83 days - Getty Images/George Wood

Lampard’s first spell in charge at Stamford Bridge did see him finish fourth and lay the foundations for Thomas Tuchel’s Champions League triumph, but little has gone right since at Everton or his return to Chelsea.

Others in the Golden Generation have tried. Sol Campbell should have had more chances than Macclesfield and Southend. John Terry and Ashley Cole have been assistants without being No 1s, while Gary Neville’s spell as Valencia manager was short-lived and saw him return to punditry as the most visual string to his bow. That was the same path as Paul Scholes with his spells as Oldham manager and caretaker at Salford.

Valencia head coach Gary Neville at their training ground
Gary Neville's spell as Valencia head coach was over rapido - Geoff Pugh

The rest have just gone straight into punditry, ignoring a managerial-merry-go-round where a run of bad results can lead to unemployment and your name joining other ex-professionals who have gone through their coaching badges. Rio Ferdinand, Michael Owen, Owen Hargreaves and Joe Cole will be seen in a TV studio sooner than a training pitch.

It is an anomaly for a generation of players to produce no managers that reach the top of their profession when they hang up their boots. The Barcelona Academy had Pep Guardiola, Xavi and Mikel Arteta learning the game as teenagers at the same time, and they are now competing against each at the biggest clubs in Europe. The Argentina team defeated by the Golden Generation England team in Sapporo at the 2002 World Cup had Diego Simeone and Mauricio Pochettino in their ranks.

Southgate’s management is a stark contrast to those days

For England, it was the player who was winning his final caps just as the Golden Generation was gaining momentum who changed football in the country for the better with his management. Perhaps Gareth Southgate was learning from everything he saw wrong as the England team slipped towards the cult of celebrity.

His management is a stark contrast to those days. In 2006 there was the media circus of Baden-Baden for the World Cup, while Southgate prefers his squad isolated from any distractions. They were relatively remote for the last two World Cups and will be again for the Euros, rather than at the centre of a paparazzi frenzy. Fabio Capello wanted a Golden Generation “legend” on the bench at the 2010 World Cup, while Southgate joked “in my view, Steve Holland is a legend”.

So there will be no David Beckham back on the bench anytime soon, as there was in South Africa while he was injured. Beckham has gone into football ownership like his best friend Neville and the appeal is obvious: running a club means full control. Neville has been through plenty of managers at Salford and knows full well the climate for young coaches, even those who were part of a Golden Generation of footballers in England.

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