ANOTHER day, another new era at Wembley. But not that new.
For the first time in a proud career, Stuart Pearce named an England squad yesterday.
What did it tell us about the direction the Three Lions are moving in? Not a lot, to be honest.
During his press conference, one journalist asked Pearce if his choice of captain would be a temporary decision or a long-term one. Pearce had to politely remind him this could be his only game as England manager.
Pearce is a caretaker, and as such, has done his job properly by naming the 25 players he did for Wednesday’s friendly against the Netherlands.
The former captain’s job is simply to showcase the talent available for the European Championships, giving his successor as much evidence as possible on which to base his selection for Poland and Ukraine.
Harry Redknapp, the man most likely, already knows the strengths and weaknesses of English players – as would Roy Hodgson, Arsène Wenger or Martin O’Neill. It is one benefit of such an insular footballing culture.
Pearce can demonstrate how uncapped players respond to the pressures of international football. It brings the best out of some – him being a classic example – exposes the weaknesses of others.
Having been in charge of the Under-21s since 2007, he should know better than anyone the talent that lies beneath. Still, he only named two uncapped players – Tom Cleverley (pictured right) and Sunderland’s Fraizer Campbell.
The squad has a young, fresh feel, but it has done since the penny finally dropped with Fabio Capello after the 2010 World Cup that going with proven players is only a good idea if they are not proven failures.
Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Kyle Walker, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck were all handed debuts by the Italian and Cleverley would have been had not the August riots, then injury, intervened.
The only real winners in the “new” squad were Campbell – on his way back after 18 months out with twice-ruptured cruciate knee ligaments – and Micah Richards, bafflingly overlooked by Capello but capped 11 times by his predecessor Steve McClaren.
Rob Green is recalled for the first time since his South African butterfingers routine, underlying the paucity of goalkeeping talent available to whoever takes the Impossible Job.
Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and John Terry, nuggets of the golden generation, are missing.
Ferdinand has only played once since 2010, Terry is injured, and all three will be well known to any new manager with a passing acquaintance to international, English or European football. In a showcase friendly, theirs would be slightly wasted caps.
The same might be said of Steven Gerrard, uncapped since 2010, but it is always wise to provide a little experience when introducing youngsters and the Liverpool midfielder could well wear the captain’s armband.
Ferdinand and Lampard need not fret over their omissions.
The next full-time manager might well be a fan, especially if he happens to be the person who brought them through at club level – Redknapp, or “uncle Harry” as Lampard knows him.
Light on revolution it may be, but Pearce’s new era ought to excite everyone involved.
The caretaker would be flummoxed by the thought of anyone not being thrilled to wear the Three Lions on the latest new shirt the marketing gurus have come up with.
Certainly Campbell had plenty of enthusiasm to spare when he talked to The Journal about his maiden call-up. He said: “There is a new manager and who knows who will take over full-time?
“On the big stage you have to try to show what you can do, it is an opportunity to stake a claim.”
Whether he plays or not, Campbell’s call-up is good news for Sunderland.
A few days training with the national side is fitting reward for a player who must have thought at times during the last year-and-a-half the day would never come.
It is nice to see the good guys prosper and his enthusiasm will be hard to contain when he returns to the Academy of Light late next week.
Campbell is the only North East-based player, but it is hard to make a case for the former Newcastle United defender ignoring his old home patch as the lesser-spotted Capello did even when Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson plied their trade here.
Lee Cattermole has produced inspired performances recently, but needs to show more consistent refinement to be considered for full international level. The cultured Danny Guthrie fits the modern-day midfield bill better, but has a fight on just holding a regular place at Newcastle with Yohan Cabaye and Cheick Tioté back in tandem.
Danny Simpson has had a solid season, but is he a better right-back than Walker, Smalling, Jones or Richards?
Very little has changed. That is not Pearce’s fault.
His job is to steady the ship. It is for the next man to work miracles.