LONDON (AFP) – Former England defender Rio Ferdinand claims that the current national side have lost their identity and has called for an overhaul of the national coaching strategy.
The Manchester United centre-back, 34, played at three World Cups but never went beyond the quarter-finals, and he believes the reason England are continually eclipsed by teams like Spain and Italy is because they have no coherent playing style.
"What is our identity?" said Ferdinand, who retired from international football in May.
"I've said that on Twitter I don't know how many times and people come back and say, 'What are you talking about?' But what is our identity?
"We started to see something when Glenn Hoddle was in charge (1996-1999), a bit of an identity then, free-flowing football, and you would say we were starting to get an idea of the pattern of what he wanted to implement in the team.
"Since then I don't think we've actually really seen an identity, where you could say, 'That's an England team', where you look at the under-21s and go, 'That's an England team'."
He added: "You could put an under-16 lad into the senior Spanish team or Italian team. He might not have the attributes in terms of physique and speed to be able to deal with it but positionally I'm sure he'd know what to do because that's what they're taught, day in, day out.
"I just don't think you see that connection between our (senior) team and the under-21s, or the under-17s and the under-20s team and the senior team, and I think that doesn't bode well for the England team."
England won the World Cup on home soil in 1966 but since then they have reached the semi-finals of a major tournament on just two occasions -- at the 1990 World Cup and the 1996 European Championship.
Ahead of the friendly with Scotland on Wednesday, Ferdinand says England must be prepared to sacrifice short-term success in favour of a more long-term approach.
"I hear that there is a new system being put in place and that (national training centre) St George's Park is part of that. Time will tell us what is going on," he said.
"I don't think there is any real right answer for any of this -- it's going to take someone with big balls to come and grab it by the scruff of the neck and say: 'This is what we're going to do and we're going to take 10 years to do it'.
"We might not qualify for a World Cup or a European Championship but I would rather not qualify for one or two tournaments knowing that in 10 years' time we will have an identity that everyone can identify with and say, 'Yes, that's us', and be proud of."
England assistant coach Gary Neville has echoed his former United team-mate's concerns, calling for the introduction of a quota system to safeguard the progress of home-grown players at Premier League clubs.
"We might unearth lots of talent from abroad. And some fantastic foreign players and managers have enhanced British football no end. But I used the phrase 'tipping point' last season and I feel we're going too far right now," Neville told The Guardian newspaper.
"We need to protect our English, Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish and Irish national teams by giving more boys from those countries more opportunities.
"We need to come together and get back to a point where there is a quota system of some kind. I know people say you can't implement this because of European law but where there's a will, there's a way."