England’s young lions taught us all a valuable lesson in dreary Iceland victory

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The Manchester City midfielder might have been hooked with more than 20 minutes remaining but Phil Foden will never forget the match in which he made his England debut.

Unlike the rest of us.

What match?

Ah, the one in which Kyle Walker joined the select group to have been sent off while representing the England football team and the one won by Raheem Sterling’s conversion of a very dubious late spot-kick and Birkir Bjarnason’s wasting of a subsequent, equally questionable penalty award.

Walker’s indiscretions are clearly not confined to lockdown but at least his blood-rush for the second yellow card in the middle part of the second half was of mild interest, as were the late penalty incidents.

Raheem Sterling scored England’s late winner from the spot

Otherwise, the remainder of this turgid, one-sided, one-paced sort-of-contest was utterly unremarkable.

Yet in Foden’s eagerly-awaited but unspectacular debut, there was a lesson to be gleaned.

Maybe there are many of us guilty of overhyping the brilliance of quite a few young English players.

If not overhyping them, then expecting too much too soon.

Foden was okay in his first senior international – a good work ethic complementing a couple of decent passes – but such is a reputation built on his excellence in an exceptional club side, some might have expected him to run the show.

Phil Foden was making his debut for England’s senior side

He did not. It was not a poor performance, far from it. And there is no doubt Foden will be at the fulcrum of England’s ambitions for many years to come.

He has fantastic potential but for those of us who have been banging his drum for so long, perhaps this was a reminder that it is still potential.

And the same should be applied to others.

The mantra at St George’s Park is that this England squad is in a very good place.

Southgate’s impressive demeanour, his eloquence, his belief in young players, has deposited a lot of credit in his bank.

But he knows that there is a lot of work and development to do before England are established as an accepted, biennial superpower in international football.

Gareth Southgate has plenty of good young talents at his disposal

Obviously, you can read little into this pre-season pipe-opener.

But there is still a gnawing feeling that English football, for all the lauding of the high-speed Premier League, is still a touch ponderous.

Technically, it is improving.

Early in the fairly tortuous proceedings, Gary Lineker tweeted this.

“Good to see an early glimpse of an England side that is technically proficient and can keep possession. So many good young players. Early for this side but promising future. And one of the very best of the young ‘uns is on the bench in @trentaa98.”

Leaving aside the foresight to bemoan Trent Alexander-Arnold’s absence from the starting right-back position, Lineker makes valid points.

Talking technically, as Gary does, Declan Rice did not have his finest game but the likes of Foden and James Ward-Prowse were predictably pleasing on the eye.

Jadon Sancho likewise, although with little end product.

Jadon Sancho was on the fringes of things for England

But it was all a bit predictable, hence why an understrength Iceland side could hold out with relative comfort for so long.

This was severely limited opposition, in ability and in ambition.

Even England going down to ten men did not even things up and the superiority of Southgate’s side was rewarded when Sverrir Ingason was judged to have illegally blocked Sterling’s shot.

I’m guessing referee Srdjan Jovanovic had simply grown bored.

He immediately tried to even matters up by penalising Joe Gomez for an innocuous half-challenge but Bjarnason refused the gift by skying his penalty.

That summed up Iceland’s quality. Or lack of.

And that is why, regardless of another victory, this was a reminder that maybe we all need to cool down the hype.

Who is England’s best young player? Have your say in the comments below

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