By Jamie Dunn
New FA chairman Greg Dyke set out two ambitious targets for the England national team on Wednesday – reach the semi-finals of Euro 2020 and win the Qatar World Cup in 2022.
The last time England made it to the last four of a major competition was on home soil in 1996, when a Gareth Southgate penalty miss saw Terry Venables's side agonisingly denied at Wembley by traditional foes Germany at the penultimate hurdle.
And now it is Southgate who is charged with the task of overseeing the development of the country’s brightest young talent on the international stage, with the former centre-back to take charge of the Under-21s against Moldova on Thursday.
The Young Lions to watch v Moldova
A Southampton regular at just 18, the left-back is expected to succeed Ashley Cole and Leighton Baines and hold down a place in the senior side.
Joined Manchester United after impressing as a Crewe academy graduate, the midfielder will see plenty of first-team action on loan at Wigan.
The midfielder is thought of highly by Andre-Villas Boas at Tottenham and has been reunited with Harry Redknapp at QPR in a season-long loan deal.
A lack of summer recruits at Manchester United could see the 20-year-old midfielder on the verge of the first team set-up after impressing in pre-season.
Much is expected at West Brom of the Burundi-born striker, who caught the eye with an impressive Capital One Cup hat-trick against Newport County.
There will be no Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, or Ashley Cole. Probably not even Wayne Rooney.
So the hard work begins now for Southgate, who replaces former England team-mate Stuart Pearce, whose own spell in charge lasted six years and ended with an embarrassingly below-par showing at Euro 2013; three games, no wins, and no points.
Pearce's reign had its high points, most notably reaching the final of Euro 2009 before being humbled by the old enemy, Germany, once again.
But, of the squad which travelled to Sweden four years ago, only Joe Hart, James Milner and Theo Walcott have gone on to become fully established senior internationals. The Germany set-up that year boasted Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil, Mats Hummels, Benedikt Howedes and Marko Marin.
Southgate, though, is ready to aid his charges in their development as technically sound players and usher the most creatively gifted through to the senior ranks.
"There's an opportunity to play in a certain style that will prepare these youngsters for when they go into the senior team," he remarked.
"The top sides in the Premier League play a possession-based game and, to be successful at international level, that's the way we need to play.
"Culturally, maybe because of the way football has been historically taught in England, we haven't encouraged more creative players to come through.
"But I do see a new breed of players coming through that are much more technically proficient, although technique isn't the only determining factor. They have to be tremendously physical and mentally strong as well."
Ross Barkley and Andros Townsend, meanwhile, are in Roy Hodgson's senior squad for key World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine, having impressed in an Under-21s thrashing of Scotland and started the season positively with Everton and Tottenham respectively.
The incentives are there for England's Young Lions. Now Southgate and the St George's Park regime must help them realise their full potential.