Joe Cole believed the England Golden Generation’s tactics were the reason they didn’t achieve success

Joe Cole believed the England Golden Generation’s tactics were the reason they didn’t achieve success
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Much has been made about England's Golden Generation failing to win a tournament during the noughties, with plenty of former players offering their opinions on the team's shortcomings in the intervening period.

Players have often cited how members of the squad didn't get on together, but Joe Cole - who played for England at both the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, as well as being an unused substitute at Euro 2004 - has offered a new perspective in addition to agreeing with the sentiment of club rivalries. 

Cole suggests the tactics England played were simply wrong, relying on the abundance of talent the squad possessed to produce moment in a game, rather than construct a team goal worked on on the training ground. 

"I don’t think that [club rivalries] was the main reason, but it was a part of the problem," Cole told FourFourTwo in the latest issue, a World Cup special available to buy

"Various England managers never properly addressed it. There would have been many ways you could have done, in terms of bringing players together or talking about how we felt. 

"Our biggest issue was being behind other countries tactically. We had great players but the system wasn’t suited to international football, particularly in hot weather. We didn’t keep possession and ran ourselves ragged. 

"We had the players to get a goal here and there, but that was often despite our tactics – we relied on somebody popping up with a bit of magic. That’s no way to win a tournament."

When comparing the current squad to the ones he was a part of, Cole also emphasises there is a very discernible difference. The former Chelsea and Liverpool midfielder believes that young players across England are being better coached than players of his generation were when growing up.


England during the Golden Generation period, with Joe Cole in the middle of the line-up (Image credit: PA)

"Proper systems are in place now, with the FA making a conscious decision – 10 or 15 years ago – to develop youngsters and help them to reach their potential," Cole said.

"We’ve come on leaps and bounds as a nation. Kids are coached to play in proper systems, to be tactically more intelligent. They want the ball, they have the confidence to use it and the mentality to deal with pressure, whether it’s from managers or the media. 

"The things we’re seeing them do at major tournaments have been drilled into them on training grounds since an early age. It’s less about individualism and more about the unit. By the time they reach international football, they can adapt better than we did. "

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Ryan Dabbs
Staff writer

Ryan is a staff writer for FourFourTwo, joining the team full-time in October 2022. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before eventually earning himself a position with FourFourTwo permanently. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer while a Trainee News Writer at Future.