Baddiel & Skinner sang of 30 years of hurt back in 1996. It was 40 in 2006 when England’s Golden Generation failed to deliver on their number one seed status at the World Cup in Germany, and then 50 as the Three Lions crashed out of Euro 2016 at the hands of Iceland.
But 60 years is when the hurt will finally end. The World Cup in 2026 is finally coming home!
England have a wealth of emerging talent that the World Cup in 2018 will come too soon for, while 2022 in the desert heat of Qatar will be an important learning curve.
The following team features a good blend of experience with a little bit of youth, and many who should be at their peak in 2026, when the World Cup is likely to be held in North America, or even on home soil if England go ahead with an expected bid of their own.
There’s even a manager and a select few substitutes to peruse over…
1. GK – Jack Butland
Age at World Cup: 33
A long-term and frustrating injury lay-off has meant Jack Butland’s challenge to become England’s current number one has had to pause. But assuming he can regain full fitness and return to the trajectory he was on, the Stoke stopper certainly has the potential to be the national team’s first choice for many years, and maybe even rival the very best in the world.
At the age of 33, Butland would be at a goalkeeper’s prime when the 2026 rolls around.
2. DF – Mason Holgate
Age at World Cup: 28
Versatile defender Mason Holgate is already getting important first-team games under his belt at Everton and looks to have all the physical and mental attributes to make it as an exceptional player in time.
Maturity and experience will only serve to make the former Barnsley youth product even better over the course of the next decade.
3. DF – Reece Oxford
Age at World Cup: 28
Reece Oxford famously made his Premier League debut on the opening day of the 2015/16 and kept Arsenal’s brimming front-line quiet in a West Ham win. He was just 16 years of age at the time and was still waiting to receive his GCSE exam results.
Big things are expected of a technical player who is comfortable in possession and has already been likened to Rio Ferdinand. A certain Bobby Moore was another West Ham defender who was also very good on the ball.
4. DF – Eric Dier (Captain)
Age at World Cup: 32
Eric Dier was being talked about as a future England captain at Euro 2016 when he was arguably the country’s best player in an otherwise disappointing tournament.
He’s largely played in midfield since becoming a regular at Tottenham, but his long-term future in the game is expected to be at the heart of a back four. His technical schooling in Portugal should serve to make him a well balanced world beater.
5. DF – Jay Dasilva
Age at World Cup: 28
Relatively short in stature but noted for speed and strength, Jay Dasilva has qualities seen in centurion former England international Ashley Cole.
The left-back is a product of Chelsea’s youth academy and is currently cutting his teeth on loan at Charlton Athletic. He’s already been capped by England in four different age groups and should be enjoying his peak years in 2026.
6. MF – Karamoko Dembele
Age at World Cup: 23
Karamoko Dembele began his international career in October last year by playing twice for Scotland’s Under-16 team. But the youngster’s next international outing came in the colours of England, joining up with the Three Lions, for whom he is also eligible, at Under-15 level.
It is thought that England will remain the primary choice for the Celtic prodigy (he played for the club’s Under-21 team at the age of just 13 last year) further down the line as well.
7. MF – Tom Davies
Age at World Cup: 27
Everton’s newest star, Tom Davies would celebrate his 28th birthday during the 2026 finals.
The midfielder, an England captain at Under-17 and Under-19 levels, has burst onto the scene in spectacular fashion in the Premier League over the last couple of months. His style of play appears so comfortably natural, while at this early stage it also seems he has the confidence and mental strength to really push himself to success.
8. MF – Dele Alli
Age at World Cup: 30
The comparisons with former England captain Steven Gerrard are already there, but for this prophecy to come true Dele Alli will have to show up and perform on the international stage, something Gerrard regrettably seldom did.
Alli has found his calling as a real goalscoring midfielder this season. If he doesn’t make Tottenham great in the coming years it will be because Real Madrid have had their way and snatched him away to the Bernabeu a la Gareth Bale.
9. MF – Angel Gomes
Age at World Cup: 25
Angel Gomes has been showing up opponents up to three years older than him in Manchester United’s youth team, scoring a hat-trick against Everton at Under-18 level in August when he was still only 15.
Born in England to a Portuguese father who played with Luis Figo and Manuel Rui Costa, Gomes has captained England’s Under-16 team. He also has an early taste for international success after being part of the Under-17 side that hammered Germany 8-1 in October.
10. FW – Jadon Sancho
Age at World Cup: 26
Manchester City saw fit to pay £500,000 for Jadon Sancho when the forward was just 14 years of age. So far the investment has paid off because the former Watford starlet has gone from strength to strength in the academy ranks at the Etihad Campus.
Although more of a wide forward for now, Sancho’s scoring record is quite something – he netted twice in the first four minutes of his debut for City’s Under-18s and is a serious talent.
11. FW – Marcus Rashford
Age at World Cup: 28
Marcus Rashford twice scored on his Manchester United debut, twice on his Premier League debut, once on his FA Cup debut, once on his senior England debut and a hat-trick on his Under-21 England debut, to prove just how much of a talent he is.
He’s scored important goals at other times as well, last season and this, including a famous winner in a Manchester derby, while the whole country was willing Roy Hodgson to use him much earlier that he did in that fateful game against Iceland over the summer.
12. Manager – Gareth Southgate
Gareth Southgate was recently given a four-year contract to lead England through to Euro 2020, but winning the World Cup in 2026 is a long-term project that has to start now. Consider Germany’s 10-year journey from Euro 2004 through to the glory in 2014, started by Jurgen Klinsmann but overseen by his former assistant Joachim Low since 2006.
Southgate doesn’t have a notable background in management, but neither did Low. He is an intelligent and considered student of the game, though, and that probably counts for much more where international football, the wholly different beast that it is, is concerned.
‘Arise, Sir Gareth’, they’ll be saying at the Palace.
13. Others in the Squad
Harry Kane (32) – Due to celebrate his 33rd birthday soon after the 2026 tournament, the Spurs striker could well be a veteran impact player by then. Maybe he’ll even be hunting Wayne Rooney’s all-time England goal record as well.
John Stones (32) – The Manchester City player has taken a real battering since becoming England’s most expensive defender, but remains widely viewed as an exceptional talent. He’s another who will be a ‘veteran’ in 2026 and should still be fighting for a place.
Jordan Pickford (32) – The goalkeeper looks set for a good career after making his mark at Sunderland this season. Should be competing with the similarly aged Butland for the gloves.
Tammy Abraham (28) – Currently excelling on loan with Bristol City, for whom he’s scored a lot of goals this season. He he been described by Antonio Conte as ‘the future of Chelsea’.
Jonathan Panzo (25) – Tall and technical centre-back currently with Chelsea’s academy.
Phil Foden (26) – Midfield play-maker already on the fringes of Manchester City’s first-team.
Finley Burns (23) – Defender whose talent has prompted Manchester City to pay £175,000.