Consequently, we normally have reason to be relatively optimistic about our chances heading into major tournaments. Despite history not being in our favour, we do have one of the strongest domestic leagues and genuinely world-class players (and theoretically managers).
It's all very promising until we actually play, at which point a mixture of ill-discipline, goalkeeping blunders, refereeing errors, penalties and just poor performance combine to ensure the return of that sickening anticlimactic dismay and disappointment with which we're all so familiar. And thus the cycle is completed again, with cries of "the same old story", "there we go again" and "I knew it" echoing out in pubs and lounges across the country.
And yet, 2 years later, against our better judgement and logical reasoning, we believe again that this could be our year, and maybe football will come home after all. Then the tournament goes down we all knew it would and the players have an extra week or two of summer holidays. The same old story.
Well this year, leading up to Euro 2012, it's different. Maybe I'm faithless but I can't see any reasons to be cheerful. More like a few reasons to be fearful.
The main one is our squad. When announced it made most of the country grimace and want to close the web page or turn off your phone. It was like when you're watching a match and it becomes increasingly obvious the team you're supporting is going to lose, all you want to do is leave the stadium or turn the TV off and forget about it.
The originally named squad was bad enough, complete with the inexplicable omission of Micah Richards and Aaron Lennon, alongside the equally inexplicable inclusion of Stuart "I bring absolutely nothing to the team" Downing and Andy "I played a bit better in May so that's good enough to start for England." Carroll. But now that the physio's room is like a scene from Saving Private Ryan, we're calling on pretty much anyone who can even count the Lions on our shirts. In all honesty I'm nearly ready to check I've got my passport handy in case the barrel-scraping gets out of hand.
|Welbeck demonstrates to Carroll|
the general idea behind being a striker
I'm a fan of Hodgson, I think he's an astute guy and should ensure we don't embarrass ourselves, but I doubt he's ever going to have the nation on its feet in elation. That said, I don't subscribe to the view that we only want to win if we win well. Look at Spain's results from the World Cup:
Spain 0-1 Switzerland (Groups)
Spain 2-0 Honduras (Groups)
Spain 2-1 Chile (Groups)
Spain 1-0 Portugal (Last 16)
Spain 1-0 Paraguay (QF)
Spain 1-0 Germany (SF)
Spain 1-0 Holland (Final - AET)
If we come away with a semi-final appearance, and only a few goals scored, it'll be our most successful performance since '96 and no-one should complain at that (we will though)