Four months have elapsed since England’s thrilling Nations League triumph over Croatia.
That come-from-behind win last November put a victorious full stop on a largely successful 2018 for the national team.
The result went some way to atoning for the World Cup semi-final loss to the same opponents last summer.
Many believe that this new, young side, led by Gareth Southgate, has untapped potential and that good things are on the horizon.
Southgate’s men kick-off their 2019 fixtures tomorrow night when they host the Czech Republic at Wembley in their first Euro 2020 qualifier.
It marks the start of another busy year, with the qualification campaign being punctuated by the Nations League finals tournament in June.
People who watch football are very, very knowledgeable. So they don’t need me or anyone else to sit there and tell them what they already know. People want a bit more now.Former Leeds and England goalkeeper Paul Robinson
Part of the attraction of this England side is its ability to constantly evolve, according to former Leeds United goalkeeper Paul Robinson.
“I think the team has developed, even since the World Cup,” Robinson, who won 41 caps for his country, told The Yorkshire Post.
“You can see that Gareth is evolving the team all the time.
“He brought in new players for the Nations League and they got results.
“I think the Nations League has been a breath of fresh air and certainly much more beneficial than having mundane friendlies.
“We’ve seen competitive matches and teams going out wanting to win games.
“I think that’s been very good for this England team and especially for them to qualify for the finals this summer.”
England take on the Netherlands in the four-team tournament in Portugal – the hosts facing Switzerland in the other semi-final.
Robinson is likely to be casting his eyes over the action in his role as a studio pundit for sports TV network beIN Sports.
The former Elland Road custodian says he enjoys his new role, which he started shortly after removing his gloves in 2017.
He believes that viewers deserve more detailed analysis.
“People who watch football are very, very knowledgeable,” he said. “So they don’t need me or anyone else to sit there and tell them what they already know.
“People want a bit more now.
“For instance, goalkeeping, along with football in general, has changed so much – just look at Ederson at Manchester City. I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw him play in centre-midfield at some point if they win the league by enough points – he’s that good.
“You can’t forget that the goalkeeping role is ultimately to keep the ball out of the back of the net but a lot more is being asked of them now and I want to try and get that across in punditry.”
The current incumbent of the Three Lions’ No 1 jersey, Jordan Pickford, earned praise for his breakthrough at last summer’s tournament – particularly for his heroics in ‘that’ penalty shoot-out win against Colombia.
Admittedly, he has struggled to keep up such a high standard post-Russia in the Premier League with Everton this term.
Robinson believes that Pickford will still get the nod from Southgate for the double-header against the Czechs and then Montenegro next Monday.
However, given the plethora of English goalkeepers playing well in the top flight, more consistency is required from Pickford to stave off such threats.
“I think Jordan had a good World Cup,” said Robinson, who played in a 2006 World Cup quarter-final. “But he has played in a struggling Everton side this season which hasn’t helped him.
“Without question he’s England’s No 1 and he’s certainly not playing badly enough to even question his position. He’s not done anything wrong but he’s not been at the top of his game.”
While the immediate aim for Southgate is negotiating this summer’s Nations League finals and making a strong start to Euro 2020 qualifying, the long-term ambition is to impress during the next World Cup.
The 2022 event will take place in Qatar with it controversially being switched to November and December rather than the traditional June/July model.
Robinson, 39, who travels regularly to the Arab state to conduct his punditry duties, has nothing but warm words for the next hosts. “I genuinely believe that it’ll be the best World Cup there’s ever been,” he added.
“This will be the first World Cup where fans are actually able to fly into one place and not have to fly to other games. I think the furthest game will be around an hour away, so, from a fans’ perspective, you would be able to come here, base yourself somewhere and then get to three games in a day.”
Robinson was also quick to bat away suggestions that the climate would present problems. “Everyone is worried about the temperature but I was here in November (for the Asian Cup)and it’s chilly on a night,” he continued.
“It gets dark about 4pm – you need a jumper at night. It will have been hotter in Russia at the last World Cup than it will be here in November or December.
“The training and medical facilities they have got already and the love of football here has grown beyond belief. I think people will be very, very surprised at how good this World Cup is going to be.”
Paul Robinson is an official ambassador for Fansbet, who donate 50 per cent of their profits generated by users to recognised supporters’ groups. Visit www.fansbet.com.