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'England must win a tournament to be a Golden Generation' - former Three Lions keeper Martyn

10:45 AM GMT 05/06/2019
England celebrate vs Montenegro
Gareth Southgate's side are preparing for a second semi-final in the space of 12 months ahead of their Nations League date with Netherlands

No group of England players should be labelled a ‘Golden Generation’ until the team have won a major international tournament, according to former Three Lions goalkeeper Nigel Martyn.

During the early 2000s, a squad boasting the likes of Rio Ferdinand, David Beckham and Steven Gerrard was saddled with the tag of being a ‘Golden Generation’ but repeatedly came up short in the latter stages of the World Cup and European Championship.

The modern-day England side contains arguably fewer star names, but reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in Russia last summer and are now gunning for Nations League glory in Portugal this week.

Martyn, who was part of four tournament squads with England, has been impressed with the work coach Gareth Southgate has done, but is wary about comparing the present crop of players to previous eras.

“The best time to get labelled as the 'Golden Generation' is after you’ve won something, so don’t get labelled with that before you’ve won a World Cup or European Championships,” said Martyn, speaking exclusively to "We may have had a ‘Golden Generation’ with talented footballers around the early 2000s but, as a team, we didn’t perform as well as perhaps we could have done.

“There were some great footballers around in the early 2000s, but it’s difficult to compare [with the current team] because the game changes as time goes on.

“What Gareth has got here is some excellent players in certain positions and good footballers in others, but he gets them playing really well as a team and there is a great team ethic there. That gives them a 5-10 per cent extra on top of the quality that is actually there.

“I like what Gareth has done, picking young hungry players, but also sticking with those who have done the business for him.”

Martyn won 23 England caps during his career, but largely played the role of understudy to the likes of David Seaman and understands the situation Burnley’s Tom Heaton finds himself in going into the Nations League finals.

However, given the form current No.1 Jordan Pickford has shown for England, Martyn believes it is difficult for Southgate to change goalkeeper.

He added ahead of England’s semi-final against Netherlands on Thursday: “I think Jordan Pickford will start for sure because he’s not let Gareth down and Gareth will keep picking players that will perform for him.

“As the goalie who’s tried to put pressure on before, all you can do is focus on your performances and try to impress around the England set up when you’re there. You’re looking to train well but also be a positive person to be around. The manager won’t like to see sulking when you’re not getting picked, so you’ve got to be behind the team, and Tom [Heaton] does that.

“I had quite a few years behind David Seaman and Chris Woods where you’re always trying to push and push, and your league form might even be better than the other ‘keepers, but if he doesn’t let England down when he plays, you have to understand why you don’t get picked.”

Nigel Martyn was speaking exclusively to  as part of their Greatest Savers campaign