England need winning mentality
Michael Owen feels England must rediscover the mentality needed to compete at the highest level as Roy Hodgson's men look to learn the lessons from the early exit out of the World Cup.
England take on Costa Rica in their final Group D match on Tuesday evening having seen any hopes of staying in Brazil ended after disappointing defeats to first Italy in Manaus and then Uruguay in Sao Paolo, where Liverpool forward Luis Suarez scored a brace.
The post-mortem into just where England went wrong has already started, from dissecting defensive shortcomings to the claims there are just not enough world-class players to pick from any more.
Owen, who scored a memorable individual World Cup goal against Argentina at France '98 and won 89 caps, believes it is all about focus when pulling on an England shirt.
"It is difficult playing for England, it always has been and always will be, but you need a lot of ability to play at the top level and a certain mentality to go with it, and obviously we are falling a bit short at the moment," said Owen, who was in Clapham on Tuesday to mark the award of a grant from BT Sport's charitable initiative The Supporters Club which will enable Street League to work with young people at a similar project in Sheffield.
"However, you can't just switch it on and off, you almost have to be born with it and have developed it.
"A lot of people will say our players do not have the ability and that people think more of our players than they actually are, but I continue to believe we have some real quality players and are better than what we are showing.
"There are a million and one reasons why we are not showing (up in major tournaments), but I think it is beginning to become more of a mental thing now than a physical thing."
Owen told Press Association Sport: "The higher level you play the better and we certainly have enough players doing that in the Premier League - and being star men at certain clubs, like Gerrard, Sturridge and Sterling at Liverpool, Wayne Rooney at Manchester United.
"These players are all doing that in world-class teams, so I certainly don't believe it is the quality, just that maybe when we get onto the international stage, things are a bit different."
Owen feels some good can come out of England's shortcomings at Brazil 2014.
"I would not say it has been a total disaster because we have some good young players who have shown promise," added 34-year-old Owen, who retired at the end of the 2012/2013 season.
"We have certainly performed better than at the last World Cup, even if results haven't been right.
"We are obviously still a way off being a country who are going to be challenging for a World Cup, but we can take some positives.
"I agree we do not have enough world-class players within our squad, but we have the potential to make more."
Hodgson has been given the backing of the FA to take England on into qualifying for the European Championships.
First-team coach Gary Neville has been touted as a potential candidate to succeed Hodgson, who is contracted until the summer of 2016.
Owen sees no reason why former players should not be able to make a swift transition into the technical area.
"There is a lot to be said for people coming out of the game and going into high-positioned roles, they understand football is changing - if you look at the example of Pep Guardiola at Barcelona, he came straight out of playing and into the biggest job, and he turned football on its head with the way he played; Jurgen Klinsmann went into management with the German national team and had great success, but of course there is also a lot to be said for experience as well," Owen added.
Owen hopes initiatives such as BT Sport's The Supporters Club involvement in projects like Street League, which aims to help develop employability skills through their academy programme, can help give youngsters a bright future.
"Football has a great reach, people can associate with it and there are so many different disciplines within football that you need for outside life in any job, so marrying the two together can be a powerful tool," he said.
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