So much for all that. Expectations may have been lowered, but we did expect more than that.
My view is that we’ve mainly seen the usual randomness inherent in football in action. There seem to be 4-5 good teams, 4-5 bad ones, and everyone else is largely in the lap of the gods. We do like to shape our narrative based on endings, but if you’d been shown both England games with the goal incidents removed I’m not sure you’d have been desperately angry overall.
This misses the point, of course: England did concede four goals, and did so in a very soft manner. We Fulham fans are experts in spotting soft underbellies, and here is was for all to see: lack of pressure around the D; players in wide areas given lots of time; forwards peeling off to the back post; calamitous mistakes. Everything England did, Fulham had done many times this season.
This said, if we started from scratch and played the games again I’m not at all convinced England would lose both. You can’t judge anything in two games between evenly matched teams, not really.
But it did highlight flaws in our thinking and our current approach to player development. What English talent that does break through all seems to be the rampaging bulldog kind: Wilshire, Rooney, Barkley, Shaw. All terrific athletes who don’t half give it something. Less obvious are the thinkers, the glue players who make their teammates look better.
In this sense, England’s back four and shield was an embarrassment. Glen Johnson has his moments as a forward but his form in the World Cup was basically awful. Jagielka and Cahill both seem like junior partners to a better centre-back we don’t have. Leighton Baines has that lovely left foot, but Ashley Cole shuts down his flank.
Gerrard and Henderson feels like 2/3 of a good idea, but as others have mentioned, probably needed an extra man to work effectively. We don’t have that extra man.
Further forward we looked alright, I thought. Rooney was shackled by opponents for obvious reasons and generally did his bit. He’s not the star we had perhaps dreamed he might become, but he is very, very good, and in that sense Wayne Rooney is the least of England’s worries. Sturridge is a fabulous player who needed more help. Sterling impressed me. I don’t mind Danny Welbeck, although perhaps Adam Lallana might have brought a little more guile.
So there we are. Hodgson’s heroes were not to be. They came, they saw, they went home early.