England to begin a new chapter at Wembley...? Do us a favour
After yet another tournament failure the FA should be grateful for a crowd of 35,000 against Norway
The Football Association is concerned that the crowd for tonight's friendly between England and Norway at Wembley could be around 35,000, reports The Guardian. Concerned? The FA should be cock-a-hoop if that many fans click through the turnstiles. When it comes to loyalty, few people have had theirs tested over the last half a century as England's football faithful. One defeat, one disappointment, one bright new dawn after another and still the FA expect people to support a team that has cornered the market in mediocrity.
On second thoughts, the Three Lions didn't even manage mediocrity in Brazil. What was it again? Two defeats and a 0-0 draw with Costa Rica, representing England's worst showing at a World Cup since 1958, yet somehow Roy Hodgson still reckoned there were positives to be taken. Well, in a sense he was right.
The disaster brought down the curtain on the underachieving international careers of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, and for that England fans should be grateful. Then again, Gerrard's retirement has prompted Hodgson – a man who sometimes gives a fleeting impression of intelligence – to appoint Wayne Rooney to the most prestigious captaincy role in English sport. Rooney's credentials for the job include the fact that the hairs on the back of his neck stand up during the national anthem.
Four years ago England returned home after another awful World Cup, this one in South Africa where they failed to beat the United States and Algeria and were then hammered by Germany. The then coach Fabio Capello had just a few weeks to recover before England's first match of the 2010-2011 season, a friendly against Hungary at Wembley.
"I will understand if the supporters boo," he said beforehand in words that could easily have come from the mouth of Hodgson this week. "They had a lot of confidence in the team and the results weren't possible. I am also disappointed."
The Italian also promised not to "make the same mistakes" but a little over a year later he was gone, another coach who took on the England job believing he could make a difference, only to discover that past managerial glories count for nothing when it comes to the Three Lions.
Hodgson succeeded Capello at the start of 2012 and has done little to convince England fans that success lies just round the corner, a state of affairs not helped by his hang-dog demeanour. Rooney isn't exactly one of life's livewires, either, and one would love to be a fly on the dressing room wall tonight when the pair give their pre-match team talks.
Based on the press conference Rooney gave on Tuesday England are still in Iain Duncan Smith rather than Churchill territory. "It's exciting times," he told reporters, offering an intriguing insight into Wayne's World. "The Italy game and the Uruguay game [at the World Cup] were really disappointing results but I thought we did well in both games. We showed some great signs of great attacking football."
England scored two goals in their three World Cup games in Brazil, and that makes it five in their last seven World Cup outings. If that's the result of "great attacking football", then God help the 35,000 hardy souls tonight should the Three Lions go on the defensive.
Rooney added that tonight's game "is the start of a new chapter" but then isn't that the England mantra after each new World Cup failure? They could well win tonight, and they might muddle their way through to the 2016 European Championships in a group in which Switzerland pose the biggest threat. But we all know what will happen if England do qualify - more defeats, more disappointments and more talk of a brave new dawn.