After England's dismal showing in Brazil, despite a few positives no doubt, futures are coming into question. The standout one of the lot is arguably captain Steven Gerrard's, who could potentially announce his international retirement after the World Cup in Brazil.
There's no doubting Gerrard's influence over the last few years. Of course England have failed to perform and deliver anything of note, but without his presence things probably would've been a lot worse. He's a leader, he sets the tone for the youngsters in the side, players and managers respect him and he's highly regarded worldwide. In short, his influence in and around the England camp has been invaluable, despite perhaps not reaching the levels many expected of him on a consistent basis.
With Spain's departure and fairly lacklustre campaign in Brazil, another talismanic 34-year-old is expected to announce his retirement; Xavi. Of course his influence on the Spanish national side has been completely different to that of Gerrard's, but he'll be virtually impossible to replace, at least like for like. Someone in the same mould as him is hard to come by.
This begs the question - do England have a readymade holding midfielder waiting in the wings should Steven Gerrard decide to call it a day?
Personally, I have my doubts. There's a shortage of quality defensive midfielders on the rise and there isn't a real standout candidate. I could list a few players from Tom Huddlestone to young Nathaniel Chalobah at Chelsea, but ultimately there's a serious lack of talent in that department should the worst happen. It's a position up for grabs though and as the likes of Luke Shaw, Ross Barkley and Daniel Sturridge have proven, young English stars can emerge suddenly out of nowhere.
This shortage of defensive midfielders is a concern at the moment but it might not be one in a year or so. Now is the time for Gerrard to step aside and allow Roy Hodgson to continue his rebuild, but in the midfield area. The two years leading up to the Euros in France should be incredibly important in that respect and just as other areas and players will be given more time to gel and adapt, it makes sense to allow Gerrard's successor, whoever that might be, the time to find their feet on the international stage.
England aside, Gerrard's strong desire to lift the Premier League title with Liverpool and perhaps add another glorious European moment with the club on his CV will mean juggling both international and club football could become tricky as his body starts aching that little bit more. It's fully understandable and must be playing on his mind at the moment, despite there being one game left in Brazil.
Steven Gerrard has played a major role in this England rebuild and his undoubted dedication to the cause over the years will be missed should he retire, but if that decision comes, then it's not the end of the world. The Three Lions are rebuilding and will continue to rebuild with or without Gerrard, it's just vital that whoever fills the void is given the sufficient amount of time to prove themselves in what is a vital area of the pitch for England.
By Mark Jones - Gillingham fan