Dig the new breed

Fabio Capello has picked an England side for today's friendly against France which is long overdue. Bristling with youth and potential, and hopefully full of ambition and hunger.

Of course, had the old warhorses been fit and available, it may well be the case that we'd have seen the same old, same old. I can only hope that Capello has seen the light, and genuinely wants to give the future of England's international football hopes to a new generation.

Joe Hart, Adam Johnson and Theo Walcott have earned the right already - I hope that the rest of the youngsters can do well enough to make Capello think again about his "automatic picks".

I have to say, personally I would lose no sleep at all if John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard never wore an England shirt again. They've had numerous chances to shine, and they have let the country down on the majority of occasions. When arrogance replaces hunger, when celebrity replaces pride - then you have a problem.


I'd go a step further, too - although most reading this would want to confine me to a lunatic asylum on a faraway island in reading it: I wouldn't have a huge issue if Capello also dropped Ashley Cole and Steven Gerrard. Cashley is the best left back in the world at the moment by a street, and Gerrard is perhaps England's only consistently quality performer. But we are talking about revolution, I think, not evolution. And revolution requires extremes.

Marc Albrighton - maybe the new David Beckham but definitely part of the new breed

If England have a vision of winning the World Cup in 2018, we build that team now and close the doors on the past and all its frustrations and failures.

I think the greatest example of how such a visionary approach can work is the French World Cup win in 1998. Many years before that, the French shut their own doors on a flagging generation and started the "France Espoirs" project - working at full international level with a clutch of young prodigies who ... well, you know the rest. Henry, Zidane, Trezeguet, Pires, Deschamps, Petit, Djorkaeff, Lizarazu etc etc etc.

So what the hell has this got to do with Aston Villa?

Well - apart from having a Gallic henchman at the top, it has everything to do with Aston Villa. Because we are going to see in the course of the next few weeks whether Gerard Houllier and Gary McAllister have really "grown a pair" and are prepared to back Villa's youngsters in the heat of the Premier League kitchen.

It's high time. It's frustrating, of course, that injuries to Fabian Delph and Gary Gardner will prevent Houllier from showing us his true colours. Are our young players filling in? Or would they be blooded, trusted, exposed and developed on the Premier League stage even if Martin O'Neill's first choice players were available?

I doubt we will finish in the top six this season. But, equally, we're highly unlikely to go down. I wonder if I wouldn't be happier finishing 14th having given our Academy graduates a valuable season of Premier League experience than watching Heskey, Petrov and Reo-Coker battle it out for 8th.

It's a key question. Come on Gerard - dig the new breed.