Paul Ince: England lack leaders, everyone is too nice to be a winner

The former England captain reflects on the psychological issues dogging the Three Lions and also offering a word of warning for Jamie Vardy.

It’s all well and good England putting in a positive performance in a friendly, but so what? They have to replicate that in the big games.

England don’t seem to be able to take their friendly form into competitive ties that really matter. We’ve beat Germany, France and Portugal over the last 18 months and then we choke when the pressure’s on.

It’s just that, mentally, we seem to freeze when these games come around in the big tournaments. We’ve got to start being able to deal with these situations.

If you look at the Euro 96 side – which both me and Southy were a part of – it was full of leaders. Seaman, Adams, Pearce, Shearer and even the current England manager himself!

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We had tough backgrounds, which made us mentally strong – we had to fight for ourselves and that gave us the hunger to be the best we could be. Big games just didn’t faze any of us.

The England squad doesn’t have that attitude anymore. Everything’s so nice nowadays – beautiful stadiums, lovely pitches, everything perfect.

I remember visiting Jamie Carragher a few years back at Liverpool, and I had to whisper to him in the changing room because it was so quiet. That shocked me – during my time, you’d have to shout to be heard because people would be laughing and joking.

There isn’t many vocal people in the current squad. I know that’s something Gareth will be working on – he needs to develop four or five talkers, to build that kind of mentality.

It’s not nice to see our players diving, because it’s a form of cheating. Jamie Vardy isn’t the first English player to do it, it’s an issue for football in general and it’s the way the Premier League has gone.

Ultimately, it needs to be cut out of the game. I don’t know if Vardy definitely dived against Germany, but it looks like he did. He tried to con the referee but, the truth is, the top refs won’t fall for it.

He needs to be careful not to get a reputation, especially if he wants to be our main man next summer. I know it’ll happen sometimes because he goes with so much pace.

When you look at the personnel, going to three at the back was something you could see England trying – but it’s taken a long time for someone to do it. It was good of Southy to try the system, especially in his first match since taking the job full-time and away to Germany of all places.

It was a brave move and something we should keep persevering with. I’d like to see us use it again against Lithuania. No disrespect to them, but we should beat them whatever system we use and there’s not much risk experimenting against them at Wembley.

The one thing I’d maybe change is playing two out-and-out strikers up top. The whole point of playing with three at the back is that it allows you the freedom to have more attacking players, so we should pick two natural frontmen on Sunday.

There’s been a noticeable change in the squad since Gareth took over – before it was mundane, the same players picked all the time, but Southy has freshened it up. I’m excited about England’s future now.

He’s a young manager who wants to change things, and use young players. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does…

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What do you think?