Neil Humphreys: Don't mention golden generation
England's Euro Under-21 battlers are better off without the silly tag
West Ham United were going to win the World Cup again. The symmetry was almost perfect.
The happy Hammers of Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters had delivered in 1966. The East London lads of Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand and Joe Cole would repeat the trick.
The coincidences seemed almost uncanny.
In 1966, West Ham's trio had superior support from Manchester United and Liverpool, in Bobby Charlton, Nobby Stiles and Roger Hunt.
In the new Millennium, Upton Park's finest would be ready to line up with United's Class of '92, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard.
The most golden of golden generations were going to rule the world, mimicking the global dominance of the English Premier League.
Of course, it didn't happen. The golden became god-awful.
A tawdry tale of missed penalties, German hammerings, Jurassic tactics and Icelandic humiliation scratched away at the myth, leaving behind an open wound of biennial disappointment.
England's rough diamonds were revealed to be the cubic zirconia of tournament football; overpaid fakes masquerading as the finished article.
And here we are again, another tournament, another golden generation of fresh-faced players ready to sweep all before them.
I do think this squad are good enough, as long as we can keep everybody fit and we don’t lose anyone through daft yellow cards...England U-21 coach Aidy Boothroyd on the squad which retained the Toulon title recently
Before a ball has been kicked, there's fighting talk once more.
England fancy their chances of winning the European Under-21 Championship, which starts tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
A group with hosts Poland, Slovakia and Sweden doesn't look particularly taxing.
They've retained their Toulon title and the U-20s have just lifted the World Cup in South Korea.
England might as well be handed the trophy now.
However, as always with the Three Lions, caution is advised.
With a dash of poignancy, England will line up against Sweden as Wayne Rooney faces an uncertain future. The Manchester United striker is the last man standing from the previous golden generation.
At Euro 2004, he lit up Lisbon like a firecracker at Chinese New Year. The precocious 18-year-old was the ruddy-cheeked cherry on England's cake.
Thirteen years later, he departs without an international trophy.
If the latest crop really do prevail in Poland, they'll end a cycle of mental fragility and tournament incompetence that has dogged the English since 1984.
That was the last time the Three Lions lifted the Euro Under-21s title, with a squad that boasted Gary Bailey, Mel Sterland, Gary Stevens, Dave Watson, Mark Chamberlain, Steve Hodge and Mark Hateley.
Of course, they had an advantage over the current lot. They were all first-team regulars at elite level.
Chelsea have three boys in the Euros squad, but midfielder Lewis Baker (Vitesse Arnhem) and striker Tammy Abraham (Bristol City) are out on loan. Defensive midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah was at Stamford Bridge last season - after spending the previously four on loan - but rarely featured.
The reluctance of the biggest clubs to take a gamble on indigenous youth is obvious when the Euro squad is examined.
Manchester City have only one player included. Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham have none at all.
Not surprisingly, Southampton boast four participants, highlighting their peerless work on the production line (and Arsenal's Calum Chambers was another Saints graduate).
At Sunderland, David Moyes' only positive contribution was to hand the goalkeeper's gloves to Jordan Pickford.
The 23-year-old couldn't save his teammates from relegation, but he saved just about everything else at the Stadium of Light.
And thanks to Southampton's sterling academy work, England coach Aidy Boothroyd will call upon three full internationals in Chambers, James Ward-Prowse and Nathan Redmond.
With Redmond and Leicester's Demarai Gray on opposing flanks, Abraham can expect quick service.
The 19-year-old striker's meteoric rise is a reason for the latest golden generation tag, but what Abraham shares with Redmond and Gray in raw talent he lacks in elite experience.
He scored 23 goals last season at Bristol City, but Chelsea are proving reluctant in promoting one of their own to the first team.
But Boothroyd is at least blessed with defensive maturity in Arsenal's Chambers and Rob Holding, and Leicester's Ben Chilwell and Swansea's Alfie Mawson.
So, forget the daft talk of golden generations.
Boothroyd's boys are shorn of superstars, but blessed with experienced campaigners from unheralded clubs.
The same was said of West Ham's World Cup trio in 1966 and it worked out pretty well for them.
EURO U-21 CHAMPIONSHIP
Opening round fixtures
- Sweden v England (Tonight, 11.55pm)
- Poland v Slovakia (Tomorrow, 2.45am)
- Portugal v Serbia (Tomorrow, 11.55pm)
- Spain v Macedonia (Sunday, 2.45am)
- Germany v Czech Republic (Sunday, 11.55pm)
- Denmark v Italy (Monday, 2.45am)