RIO FERDINAND has compared England’s young squad to the Leeds United team of 2000.
The retired defender says he can “sense a little bit that there is something coming” from a squad in which the largely inexperienced Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane are expected to be central figures.
An argument against that and those more recent additions is that Roy Hodgson’s team is not as settled as many would like going into a major tournament.
Ferdinand says he has been reminded of the squad he joined at Leeds United in 2000 which reached the semi-finals of that season’s Champions League.
The final four would similarly represent a significant achievement for Hodgson, and Ferdinand said: “When you have a group of young guys – it happened when I went to Leeds, I went into a dressing room full of young guys – (there were the) same interests and the same ways about you and that is a strong bond.
“The environment has to be created, a winning mentality has to be created by the manager – that is his job.
“The tactics are standard but the environment he creates really does set the tone and the platform for if you can be successful.
“A tournament can help create that as well, when you are confined to a space the bonding can really start. You travel and it starts snowballing into a momentum you can’t stop, I hope that can happen with England.”
Much has been made of Hodgson’s attacking options where, amid competition for selection between Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Kane, Jamie Vardy and Marcus Rashford, England have their strongest competition for 20 years and the build-up to Euro 96.
It is a far cry from the 2010 World Cup where Fabio Capello struggled to find a partner for Rooney between Emile Heskey, Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch, but even with that strength in depth, Ferdinand is wary of the absence of the injured Danny Welbeck.
“He is not underrated in the squad,” said 37-year-old Ferdinand, a BBC pundit who played alongside the forward for Manchester United. “He is one of those players who his team-mates appreciate.
“People say he doesn’t have the flashy moments and fans don’t automatically think of him, but in a team you appreciate Danny Welbeck because there is more to him than any other striker with the work-rate.
“I think that is detrimental to his goalscoring attributes – sometimes he does too much outside the 18-yard box.
“That is one element of his game that if he changes it you will see a better output of goals, but he adds so much elsewhere.
“As a specimen he is frightening, but as a striker you get rated on your goals and assists and if he alters a few things he can become a top, top goalscorer.
“He will be missed.”
Meanwhile, England defender Nathaniel Clyne insists the squad are relishing the competition for places ahead of Euro 2016.
The Liverpool right-back played 90 minutes in the 2-1 friendly win over Australia at the Stadium of Light on Friday but knows he faces a battle with Tottenham’s Kyle Walker for the first-choice spot at the tournament in France.
He believes his situation is one replicated throughout the squad and it provides a motivating factor for all.
“There are players fighting for positions all over the pitch when they get an opportunity to show what they can do and that is healthy,” he said.
“I think it is good as it keeps everyone on their toes and keeps everyone fighting for positions – everyone wants to be hungry and has a determination to get themselves into the squad.
“I think everyone is focused on trying to get themselves into the squad.
“Everyone is working hard in training and in matches to try to get into the team.
“Unfortunately there will be three people dropping out but the competition is healthy.
“It will be sad for the players to be told they will not be going with the squad but there are a lot of players who also didn’t get picked.
“But England have a strong team and hopefully they can do well at the tournament.”
Clyne has had a long season already with Liverpool courtesy of a run to the finals of both the Capital One Cup and Europa League and after disappointment at both he is keen to end the campaign on a high.
“I still have a lot left in the tank to continue through the tournament,” added the 25-year-old.
“I am young and fresh and hopefully I can get more experience by playing in this tournament as it is my first tournament.
“This is what you see as a little kid when you watched England on TV so I am looking forward to it and hopefully it will be a good tournament.
“I was on holiday for the last tournament and I watched it on television in a Miami hotel so I am excited.
“Everyone wants to be playing for their country.”
On what effect his two final setbacks have had this season he said: “I guess it urges me on to do well.
“I’ve been through losing two cup finals, which is disappointing, but it urges me on to do better and try to win this time.”