From 1998 through to the 2010 World Cup Finals, England were supposed to have a ‘Golden Generation” of footballers.

But is there an argument that the current crop of players could be England’s real Golden Generation?

It is one that has been argued over the last few years in particular as a host of talented young players, many from Steve Cooper’s victorious England U17 World Cup Winning Squad in 2017, have broken through into the England first team squad.

Add to that a World Cup Semi Final spot, a runner up spot in the European Championships in 2020 and a World Cup Quarter Final finish in 2022, and England seem set for good things with this young squad.

So how do they compare? Who is England’s REAL Golden Generation? What do the bookies think of England’s chances to win a major trophy soon?

Let’s compare and answer all of those questions and more.

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England’s Golden Generation 1 – 1998 to 2010

After Euro 96, Terry Venables left an ageing England squad and Glenn Hoddle took over with a remit to bring through a new generation of talented players. The likes of Alan Shearer, Teddy Sheringham, Steve McManaman, Paul Gascoigne, Tony Adams, Stuart Pearce and Paul Ince were reaching the end of their careers.

However, coming through the ranks were a new generation of players to take their place, led by a quintet of Manchester United starlets, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Gary Neville and his brother Phil Neville.

They would be joined soon by the likes of Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Ashley Cole, David James, Michael Owen, Emile Heskey, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Steven Gerrard and more in what promised to be an outstanding England legacy.

However, their results as a generation didn’t really live up to expectations as successive England managers struggled to get the best out of the team.

England Golden Generation 1 – Major Finals Performances

  • World Cup 1998 – Round of 16 – Lost 4-3 on penalties to Argentina after 2-2 draw
  • Euro 2000 – Group Stage – Lost two of three group games.
  • World Cup 2002 – Quarter Finals – Lost 2-1 to Brazil
  • Euro 2004 – Quarter Finals – Lost 6-5 on penalties to Portugal after 2-2 draw
  • World Cup 2006 – Quarter Finals – Lost 5-3 on penalties to Portugal after 0-0 draw
  • Euro 2008 – Did Not Qualify for the Finals Tournament.
  • World Cup 2010 – Round of 16 – Lost 4-1 to Germany

If we then award points for how England’s performances rated based on the following –

  • 0 – Failed to qualify for finals tournament
  • 1 – Eliminated at Group Stage
  • 2 – Eliminated at Round of 16
  • 3 – Eliminated at Quarter Finals Stage
  • 4 – Eliminated at Semi Finals Stage
  • 5 – Runners Up
  • 6 – Winners

Then we can see that over those seven tournaments, England’s first Golden Generation would have amassed 14 points in total.

But what about the current generation of England players that have been at the heart of Gareth Southgate’s team over the last five years or so?

England’s Golden Generation 2 – 2018 – Present

Back in 2016, England had just concluded a dismal performance at the European Championships, following on from their group stage elimination at the 2014 World Cup Finals in Brazil, where they failed to win a game.

England won just one game at Euro 2016, a 2-1 win over Wales, given to them by a last gasp goal from Daniel Sturridge. A 1-1 draw with Russia and a 0-0 draw with Slovakia, which saw England fans boo the team from the field followed.

England qualified for the Round of 16, but despite taking a lead through Wayne Rooney, Iceland struck back to score twice to send England out of the tournament in humiliating fashion. Roy Hodgson resigned as manager, with Sam Allardyce taking over.

However, the ex-Bolton boss lasted just one game after he was subject of a newspaper sting where he explained how to circumvent FA rules on third party ownership of players, as well as insulting former manager Roy Hodgson.

Gareth Southgate took over as caretaker and was appointed permanently a few months later and he remains in this post to this present day.

In 2017, an U17 England team won the FIFA World Cup for that age group and many of those players began to come through the ranks over the intervening years, and with Southgate relying on many players he had picked for the U21’s in his time as manager there, a new Golden Generation of England players were christened.

They included Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dele Alli, Jadon Sancho, Phil Foden, Marc Guehi, Declan Rice, Kalvin Phillips, Reece James, Mason Mount, Jack Grealish, Conor Gallagher, Aaron Ramsdale, Bukayo Saka, James Maddison and Marcus Rashford.

They joined more experienced members of the squad in Harry Maguire, Kieran Trippier, Jordan Henderson, Jordan Pickford, John Stones, Luke Shaw, Ben Chilwell, Raheem Sterling and captain Harry Kane to usher in a new era.

Then the final jewel in the crown emerged at the 2022 World Cup Finals when 19-year-old Jude Bellingham shone.

England Golden Generation 2 – Major Finals Performance

  • World Cup 2018 – Semi Finals – Lost 2-1 to Croatia (AET) Finished 4th.
  • Euro 2020 – Final – Lost 3-2 on penalties to Italy after 1-1 draw.
  • World Cup 2022 – Quarter Finals – Lost 2-1 to France

Using the same points scale, we can see that the current England squad has amassed a total of 11 points across just three tournaments, compared to 14 over 7 for the first Golden Generation.

In short, that suggests that the current England team are likely to do twice as well at major tournaments as their predecessors.

Furthermore, England have already qualified for Euro 2024 next year in Germany, so they are only likely to improve on that total in the near future too.

Head To Head Comparison

However, perhaps the best way to identify which was the best generation is to go head-to-head in terms of quality of players in the team.

We have arranged the team in a 4-3-3 formation and given ratings out of 10 for each player. Furthermore, we have continued from the first team down to the rest of a 23-man squad and also included the manager in the ratings too.

ENG 1998-2010RatingPositionRatingENG 2018-Present
David SEAMAN9GK8Jordan PICKFORD
Gary NEVILLE7DR9Kyle WALKER
Ashley COLE9DL7Ben CHILWELL
John TERRY9DC8Harry MAGUIRE
Rio FERDINAND9DC8John STONES
Steven GERRARD10MC9Declan RICE
Paul SCHOLES9MC9Trent A-ARNOLD
Frank LAMPARD9AMC10Jude BELLINGHAM
David BECKHAM10AMR9Bukayo SAKA
Wayne ROONEY10AML9Phil FODEN
Michael OWEN10AC10Harry KANE
 Squad 
David JAMES7GK27Aaron RAMSDALE
Paul ROBINSON6GK37Nick POPE
Ledley KING7DEF58Reece JAMES
Jamie CARRAGHER7DEF68Kieran TRIPPIER
Wayne BRIDGE6DEF77Marc GUEHI
Sol CAMPBELL8DEF86Fikayo TOMORI
Paul INCE8MID48Jordan HENDERSON
Darren ANDERTON8MID58Kalvin PHILLIPS
Joe COLE7MID67Conor GALLAGHER
Emile HESKEY7ATT48Jack GREALISH
Alan SHEARER9ATT57James MADDISON
Peter CROUCH8ATT66Ollie WATKINS
1998-2010Manager(s)2016-
Glenn HODDLE64Roy HODGSON
Kevin KEEGAN4 2Sam ALLARDYCE
Sven-Goran ERIKSEN6 9Gareth SOUTHGATE
Steve McLAREN3  
Fabio CAPELLO5  

What this shows is that perhaps for pure talent alone – the first golden generation of players has the edge at the present moment.

However, the current generation has performed far better than the older generation in major tournaments, and still has plenty of time on its side to improve those rankings and go down as the best generation of England players ever.

But to do that, they’ll need to win trophies, and how do the bookmakers view the England team’s chances of success?

England Fan
Image by Coombesy from Pixabay

What do the Bookmakers rate England’s chances at?

The answer to that is good. England are currently 4/1 to win Euro 2024 next summer with Bet365 Sport, with France a close 9/2 second. Then there’s a gap to hosts Germany at 13/2 followed by Spain at 7/1 and Portugal at 8/1.

Looking even further ahead to the World Cup 2024, England are currently third favourites to win the trophy at 13/2, behind the joint favourites France and Brazil who are both at 11/2. Argentina are 8/1, Spain 9/1, Germany 10/1, Portugal 13/1 and Netherlands 16/1.

All those odds are available at the time of writing with bet365 Sport.

England’s current crop of stars have made a good start to this next generation of stars and they have the potenetial to be even better than the Golden Generation of 1998-2010.

But to really fulfil that potential, they’ll need to bring home a major international trophy.

As for the time being, the only true Golden Generation of England players, were those that were part of the 1966 World Cup Winning Squad.