Long before the great excitement of the World Cup mesmerised the nation I told my driver that the English soccer team would be out of the competition in no time at all.
My prediction came sooner than expected. I based my assessment on the simple fact that we seem to mollycoddle our players to the point where their skills are overemphasised and they tend to perform more as individuals than as a team.
But what I found more astonishing is that failure to succeed is never taken seriously and we invariably take it on the chin and without the benefit of any learning curve.
Fabio Capello, the previous England manager whose English was rather poor, made one of his observations which somehow encapsulated the problem: ‘Lions in the autumn, lambs in the spring’ was how he described the reasons for England’s recurrent failures.
They don’t seem capable of adapting their tactics to changing circumstances. For crucial periods of both defeats by Italy and Uruguay they resembled headless chickens, or rabbits caught in the headlights as one English commentator had the guts to say.
I watched the two games with a faint heart. I did not think that Italy were great and we should have easily won. We lacked inspiration and the vision to accomplish a task which in my view could have given us the impetus to improve our game.
Uruguay was another matter. Luis Suarez’s brilliance, with which the Liverpool player sent England packing, was to be admired – more so that it sealed a triumphant return from injury from a player who was in a wheelchair only a month earlier.
Suarez, who uses his brain as well as his feet, overshadowed everybody else on the field. England should have bloody well restrained him but failed miserably to do so and, of course, they paid the price.
What English players really need is a cultural revolution in which the power of the brain is valued as much as the fitness of the body.
Another major factor that has bedevilled Britain as a whole for the past three decades is that failure not only in sport but also in politics is very often rewarded and, in some cases, most handsomely.
Roy Hodgson, on £3.5 million a year for a part-time job, has, despite his failure, been assured by the dozy Greg Dyke that his job is secure and he’s the right man to lead the country.
Those in power must be under the illusion that most of us are muggins who need educating and are easily deceived by their rhetoric.
Well, their day of judgement is only a stone’s throw away for there is no medicine for mediocrity. It’s terminal, unless we banish it from our psyche.