As the English nation goes about mending its footballing ego following the national side's dismal Euro 2016 exit at the hands of Iceland, a country with roughly the same population as Leicester, former England players left right and centre (forward) have been queuing up to lay the boot in - and deservedly so.
First Alan Shearer threw his hat in the ring to manage the team himself, then Chris Waddle went on a spectacular radio rant, and now Jamie Carragher has delivered the most mortifying put-down so far, labelling England’s squad as 'babies' who should not 'escape liability' for their dismal showing over in France.
Writing for the Daily Mail, the former England and Liverpool defender bemoaned what he called the ‘Academy Generation’, who he feels are the reason the Three Lions players are now so ‘soft physically and mentally.
‘I call them the Academy Generation, he wrote, ‘because they have come through in an era when footballers have never had more time being coached. At this point I want to make it clear I am not pointing the finger at academy coaches, as others will do.
‘But they get ferried to football schools, they work on immaculate pitches, play in pristine training gear every day and everything is done to ensure all they have to do is focus on football. We think we are making them men but actually we are creating babies. Life has been too easy. They have been pampered from a young age, had money thrown at them and, when things have gone wrong, they have been told it is never their fault. Some 12- and 13-year-olds have agents now. Why?’
He wasn’t done there, adding:
‘Why won't they take responsibility? They live lives now with personal assistants, player liaison officers, nannies and agents organising every little detail for them. Some wouldn't even know how to book a holiday or an appointment at the dentist for themselves. It strips character. You can see that in the interviews they give. They are bland and sanitised and come across as if the answers have been rehearsed. There really is no point in watching them, as they are afraid of saying anything.
‘It never is the players' fault when England crash out of a competition, is it? It's always the manager not listening or the facilities not being good enough or the climate was too hot or the officials made mistakes. But never the players. Absolutely not.
'Well, it's time to explode that myth. I was in South Africa in 2010. I heard all the complaints about Fabio Capello and his strict methods and all the grumblings about the base where we stayed in Sun City being too isolated. Do you know the truth? The complaints were bulls**t. We came home early because we were not good enough.’
‘England deserved to go out then, just as we deserved to go out here. That weakness that runs through England squads is only getting worse and I was enraged by the way that team disintegrated when the stakes were rising.’
Unlike Carragher’s ex-Liverpool teammate Didi Hamman - who yesterday went so far to say that the Premier League is a myth and England’s players are inferior to those of other major teams - he believes this England squad has the talent, just not the streetwise nous of other sides:
‘Are Iceland's players technically better than England? No. I wouldn't even say Italy, who have powered through to the quarter-finals, are technically superior to us. Emanuele Giaccherini, remember, had a spell at Sunderland but could not get a game. Graziano Pelle is leading Italy's line but he wouldn't have got in England's 23.
'So why are they dreaming of a potential date in the final while we are conducting a post-mortem? They are streetwise, they know how to deal with situations. Their defenders mark you so tight at set-pieces that it feels as if they are in your boots. They give cute fouls away. They know how to win. Each man knows his job and what he is there to do, so the system never breaks down. Crucially, they don't panic even when the pressure is intensifying. What do England do? Visibly shrink. I've never seen a starker example than against Iceland.'
Forget the atrocious defending, lack of dead ball specialists and general nonchalance, Carragher’s main issue with things is that the squad just wasn't mentally prepared, lacking a do-or-die attitude and taking-one-for-the-team spirit - a critique which may strike a chord with fans still wondering where it all went so painfully wrong. He continued:
‘Plenty of critics have rounded on Hodgson for the first goal Iceland scored, the long throw from the right that caused chaos. The theory is England couldn't have worked too hard on defending that tactic as Iceland struck gold with their first attempt.
‘Nonsense. Of course England had worked on it. Watch the replays again and you will see Harry Kane, our centre forward, running back from the halfway line to take a designated position to deal with what was coming. But, inexplicably, Kyle Walker completely switches off and lets his man go. Could you imagine an Italian defender doing the same?
‘So why England? There was an absence of the TCUP, as Sir Clive Woodward calls it. Thinking Clearly Under Pressure. All sportsmen who play internationally are good but what sets the elite apart is to make the correct decision in the decisive moments.
‘England were confronted by three pressure situations in Euro 2016 and each time they cracked. The first was in the final 10 minutes against Russia, when they conceded an equaliser, the second was Iceland's throw-in and the third was when they chased an equaliser against Iceland. They had 72 minutes to get one goal but failed because of stupid decisions, stupid shots and stupid passes.
‘To see it unfold was unbelievable. I include Hodgson in this because of his substitutions. Why didn't he send Marcus Rashford on earlier? He put Jamie Vardy, his second change, on with 30 minutes to go but waited until the 86th minute to introduce Rashford.’
You can read the rest of Carragher’s stern indictment here. But what do you think of his comments. Do you agree with the ex-England man or think there's more to it. Let us know below.