As part of the Football League’s youth development set-up, former Mansfield Town star Phil Stant was proud to see a young England open their World Cup with victory last night.
But Stant believes the country still lacks the true world class star it needs and that a lack of first team openings for players at the top level will also always hamper England’s hopes of glory.
It took a late Harry Kane header to give England a 2-1 win over Tunisia last night, but Stant said: “It doesn’t matter how you get it. “We missed so many chances and you can go on about VAR as much as you want, but I’m not bothered now – we got the points.”
EFL youth development officer Stant is proud to see players come through the system to this level.
“It’s great as for us who work in youth development, he said.
“We have seen these players come through and it’s great to see them at these tournaments.
“They are only young and they are going to make mistakes.
“But a lot of them have come through Football League programmes which is really pleasing for us.
“Fair play to Gareth Southgate. He has worked with these players for a long time and knows them inside out. It’s only going to be better for the national team in the long run.
“And there are a lot more younger players in the system to come. “They’ve won youth championships over the last 18 months, but you know as well as I do, the problem will be opportunity at first team level.” He also said the country still appears short of that magic player that can win a side titles at the top.
Stant said: “Have we got a Ronaldo? Have we that matchwinner at the elite level?
“Ronaldo has done it year after year against the top players and the top sides. Have we got one of those? Have we got a Messi?
“I don’t even think Wayne Rooney was in that bracket.
“I don’t think we have and I don’t think we’ve had one since Paul Gascoigne in his prime.”
However, Stant believes England can still reach the knockout games this time around.
“I can see us progressing through to the next stage,” he said.
“Belgium will be a test for us, but I expect a good result and a few goals for us against Panama on Sunday. Hopefully that will build up confidence.
“When you look at teams like Germany getting turned over by Mexico, who I thought looked a really good Mexican side going forward, and Argentina not getting the result, we should be happy starting with a win.
“Then we had the game of the tournament so far with Spain v Portugal. It’s all good at the moment.”