Roy's kids could dispel myths that experience always trumps age

England's World Cup preparations have gone surprisingly smoothly so far.

I say surprisingly because this time four years ago in South Africa, fault lines had already started to appear.

Captain Rio Ferdinand was injured, the players had taken an instant dislike to their 5 star confinement in Rustenburg and the cliques in the team were already proving divisive.

It was not a happy camp.

Stir in Fabio Capello's aloof, dictatorial style of management and frosty disdain for the media and you begin to see why England's South African sojourn was always going to end in a mixture of failure and recrimination.

Former England manager Fabio Capello lived life with many rules... Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA

Fast forward to 2014 and there is a different feel about the place.

The players appear happier - as if they're actually enjoying themselves for goodness sake. Gone is the sullen arrogance of some seasoned internationals, strutting around giving the impression they had little to prove.

England's Jack Wilshere is sprayed with water in a much more relaxed camp than in South Africa. Credit: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

So what has made the difference?

For a start the youngsters in the squad seem to have energised the mood. They look like players who are genuinely excited to be involved.

Whether it's naivety or genuine sporting chutzpah Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling, for example, are not intimidated by the Big Names around them. In training they relish showing off their full repertoire of tricks rather than shrinking into a safety first shell.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was the stand out player before his injury against Ecuador; frightening a good number of the opposition with his speed, close control and innovation.

If he plays no further part in England's campaign, that will be a real loss.

Could this be the end of the road for Oxlade-Chamberlain? Credit: Mike Egerton/PA

So I guess we must congratulate Roy Hodgson on his squad selection, by refreshing it he has concocted an interesting dynamic.

As Steven Gerrard conceded yesterday any one of the 23 could start in the first match against Italy in Manaus.

That might be stretching the reality, especially looking at the defending against Ecuador, but there is genuine competition for places in front of the captain.

England's Steven Gerrard (centre) and Roy Hodgson (R) watch the England players train in Miami. Credit: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

Even Wayne Rooney is not safe from being side-lined but far from unsettling him, that may just be a good thing.

Rooney has carried the weight of England's expectations in the past two World Cups and frankly the burden has proved too much.

With luck he will now feel free from that suffocating, almost intolerable responsibility.

Having said all that, I strongly suspect there won't be any real surprises when Hodgson names his first team against Italy.

If I'm right however, his bench will be packed with potential, young men with the ability and confidence to change a game – young men for whom the England shirt is a source of inspiration not a reason to hide.

Rooney has carried the weight of England's expectations in previous tournaments. Credit: Mike Egerton/PA

History tells you that come the big occasion, in business, politics or sport, experience is your strongest card.

But if, for whatever reason, that doesn't work at least Hodgson will have some irrepressible young livewires at his disposal who might just dig him out of trouble.

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