England must develop their own identity if they are to flourish at international level and should be prepared to miss out on major tournaments to make it happen, Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand said.
"What is our identity?", Ferdinand, who retired from international football in May, said in Tuesday's edition of The Guardian newspaper.
"We started to see something when (former manager) Glenn Hoddle was in charge, 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.'"
England's under-21 and under-20 teams performed poorly at the European Championship and World Cup respectively this summer, with the senior side in danger of missing out on the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Ferdinand said there was a disconnect between England teams at different levels and there needed to be a clear way of playing across all of the country's representative teams, something that the Football Association's director of elite development Dan Ashworth has acknowledged.
The FA has invested heavily in the recently opened St George's Park in Burton as a centre for all coaching and development work. The venue is also used to prepare England national teams.
Ferdinand said the country should be prepared to miss a World Cup or European Championship if that's what it took to implement change.
"If all the names were taken off the back of the shirts and the colours were changed, you couldn't go in there and say, 'That's an England team, that's our identity, that's the way we play.' And that's from the under-16s right up to the senior team," added Ferdinand, who won 81 senior caps.
"Whereas you look at an Italian team, a Dutch team, a Spanish team, a German team or a Brazilian team, without seeing the names on the shirts, you would identify them because they're working from a script.
"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."
England play Scotland in an international friendly on Wednesday, ahead of crunch World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine next month.
They lie second in Group H, two points behind Montenegro and one ahead of Ukraine, with four matches remaining and only the group winners guaranteed a place in Brazil.
England manager Roy Hodgson will take charge of the under-21 side for Tuesday's clash with Scotland, after Stuart Pearce's contract was not extended following the Euro failure.
Peter Taylor led the under-20 team at their World Cup, where England finished bottom of their group behind Iraq, Chile and Egypt.
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