Fabio Capello has been quoted this week as saying that he will consider it a personal failure if his England side doesn’t reach the final of the forthcoming World Cup.
English sporting success is something that, in my experience, the majority of Scots do not want to contemplate. But why?
I think it is more than simple animosity towards a near, and bigger, neighbour. For some people it may be a politically motivated nationalism. But the most common reason I hear is the rabid jingoism of the English media.
We are always being told that the EPL is the best league in the world, or that football coming home. And of course at any excuse we are reminded of 1966. How often have we seen Geoff Hurst’s so called hat trick? Or heard commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme telling us that it is all over?
If England do triumph in South Africa we can expect to be reminded of it for many years to come. There will be wall to wall media coverage, interviews with friends and relatives and of course the final will be shown every other day and twice on Sundays. And that would be something akin to life in the fourth circle of hell for Scots.
Looking at the likely contents of the squad, Capello will have a decent group of players to choose from.
Defensively they may be a little fragile. David James is the top goalkeeper and while he can be brilliant, he still makes costly errors at unexpected moments. Captain Rio Ferdinand has struggled for both form and fitness this season and central defensive partner John Terry has struggled too after well publicised off the field problems. Full backs Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole have also had major injury problems this season.
There is talk that Capello will switch his formation and play three central defenders. Does this indicate that he too us worried about his defence? The player to be brought in could be King (if fit), Upson or the newly recalled Carragher.
In midfield Frank Lampard is England’s ace, having just finished another fine season. Steven Gerrard is another who has not shown his best this year, but is still likely to start, and could be a star man. In the wide areas England are well served with Joe Cole, James Milner, Theo Walcott and Adam Johnson all likely to be in the squad.
Up front they will rely heavily on Wayne Rooney. He has scored for fun this season but has picked up niggling injuries over the last month. Peter Crouch, Jermaine Defoe and possibly Darren Bent will be there too.
And of course they have a vastly experienced manager at the helm. Fabio Capello is a winner. He has championships in Italy and Spain as well as a Champions League success on his CV and he knows how to get the best from players.
So do England have a chance in South Africa? Realistically they should make the latter stages of the tournament. Losing semi-finalists is my prediction.
England play their first match on Saturday 12 June against the Americans. Capello’s men will be firm favourites, but I have a feeling that Team USA will give them a strong challenge.
This is a game I am really looking forward to – and like my many American friends I will be hoping for an upset!
The World Cup finals are something that I always look forward to. I just hope that we can get through this one without too much hype from the English media.
And that Capello is ultimately left disappointed, of course.