Culture of fear holding England back, says Gerrard

Steven Gerrard captained England at two World Cups and Euro 2012 Credit: PA

Steven Gerrard believes a "culture of fear" is responsible for England's continued underachievement at major international tournaments.

England crashed out of Euro 2016 in humiliating fashion after losing 2-1 to Iceland in the last 16 in Nice on Monday, with manager Roy Hodgson announcing his resignation within minutes of the final whistle.

Hodgson subsequently insisted in a press conference in Chantilly on Tuesday that England's young squad can recover from the setback at future tournaments under new management, but Gerrard insists nothing will change as long as the current atmosphere surrounds the squad.

"I do not accept that the problem with English football is the players are not good enough," Gerrard wrote in a column for the Telegraph. "It is the same argument whenever we go out of a major tournament. The players are overrated, and the English Premier League is not as strong as it thinks it is.

"Nonsense. You are telling me we do not have the talent to beat Iceland? That we lost because their players and their league are better than ours?

"We failed so badly on Monday night because of our poor decision-making, an inability to respond to events as they unfolded and because we repeated too many of the mistakes of the past.

"When England went behind, many of those players will have been thinking of the consequences of defeat as much as what to do to get back in the game.

"I hate to say it, but your mind drifts to what the coverage is going to be like back home and the level of criticism you are going to get. You cannot stop yourself. 'What if we don’t get back into this? What will it be like if we go out here?'

"Panic sets in. The frustration takes over. You freeze and stop doing those things you know you should be. You start forcing the game, making the wrong choices with your passes, shooting from the wrong areas and letting the anxiety prevent you from doing the simple things."

Many of England's players went into Euro 2016 on a high following impressive Premier League campaigns, with the sizeable Tottenham contingent fresh from mounting the club's first genuine title tilt in years, but Gerrard insists playing for England is a completely different challenge.

"There is no environment of calm around the national team," he added. "There never has been. It is always hysteria. There is a culture of fear within and it has not been addressed.

"It is all very well for the media to shake their heads at that and say we should be stronger and more level-headed in those situations but there is a weight of history to contend with.

"It has become a massive burden. When calm heads were needed out there, everyone was looking at each other hoping someone was going to pull something out the bag for us. Very few were capable of taking on the responsibility.

"It is a different level to club football, where if you lose a big game there is usually never too long to get out there and make amends.

"You can refocus quickly. With England, you know your chance is gone for another two years and the criticism will be ferocious. You know the eyes of the world are on you. The pressure is another level."