Steven Gerrard has been “blown away” by England’s young talent as the team prepare for a rough ride from fans in Wednesday’s friendly against Hungary.
Following a miserable World Cup campaign, the skipper admitted he might have booed England if he was a fan.
However, the midfielder is upbeat after seeing the likes of Arsenal duo Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere in training.
“Five or six young players in the squad have blown me away with the standard they are capable of,” said Gerrard.
“Games like [tonight] are a chance to give kids the opportunity and some experience.
“You can’t put a kid out there in a World Cup situation because it’s hard enough being an experienced player but there isn’t a tournament for two years, so they have time to bed in.”
England take on the Hungarians at Wembley in their first match since their dismal showing in South Africa, where they struggled through the group stages only to be beaten 4-1 by Germany in the last 16.
Manager Fabio Capello and the players have been fiercely criticised by the media and fans and are in need of a desperate boost as they prepare for their only match before the European Championship qualifying campaign, which starts in September.
Capello has said “sorry” for England’s performances during the summer and expects, along with Gerrard, a “mixed reaction” from those attending the match in London on Wednesday evening.
“We have to take it on the chin. We deserve it. We let them down,” commented Gerrard. “I’m desperate to make them happy in the future. I’m hurting as a player and I’m sure the rest of the lads are as well.
“I am not sure what the answer to what went wrong in the summer is.
“Maybe it is the big picture, and the need to bring players through but that’s me going for the easy option. I don’t know whether a country like Spain [World Cup winners] train and whether they are trained better.
“They are the benchmark and that’s where we need to get but I don’t think there is a technical deficiency between our players and those from other teams.”
Only 10 players of the 23-man World Cup squad return for the match, with Capello freshening up the national set-up by opting for youngsters such as 18-year-old midfielder Wilshere, set to become the 10th youngest England international of all time, and Gunners team-mate and left-back Gibbs, 20.
There have also been call-ups for under-21 keepers Scott Loach and Frankie Fielding, while the uncapped 29-year-old Fulham striker Bobby Zamora and Manchester City winger Adam Johnson have also got the nod.
Zamora’s promotion is a reward for his stunning efforts last season – 21 goals and a place in the Europa League final – before an Achilles tendon injury denied him the chance of a trip to the World Cup.
The former Brighton, Tottenham and West Ham forward could finally end his long wait for full international honours.
He is determined to impress having seen previous team-mates John Terry and Ledley King, who he played with at the Senrab club in east London, make the grade.
“I never reached the stage where I thought I was never going to make it,” stated Zamora. “I have progressed over the last few years and that is all I can keep doing, trying to improve and hopefully the pinnacle is playing for England.
“I am not a deep thinker about these things, but now an opportunity’s come along I want to grab it with both hands.”
Despite the gloomy predictions about England’s predicament by some critics, Hungary captain and Fulham midfielder Zoltan Gera believes his team faces a touch task against the new-look England.
“It will be a young team, and they will all play with their heart,” said Gera, who was signed by West Brom from Ferencvaros in 2004 before joining the London side two years ago on a free transfer.
“They will fight – and that has never really been a problem with English teams in the past.”