BEEN trying all day to come up with something positive, to go against the torrent of despair crashing on the nation’s football consciousness.
Looking to find the Yang to the England team’s Yin, so to speak, to offer light in the darkness.
But it’s not really happening.
Sunday night was bad, Monday morning was worse and even though today is a little better the pain, though we knew it was coming, is still pretty crushing.
You’d think that after 40-plus years of increasingly frequent humblings we would have got used to it by now.
From the utter, unstoppable despair of 1970 through the drama, regret and heroism of 1990 and 1996 to Kiev 2012, we’ve gone from real contenders to perennial losers.
Oh how the Germans must have been praying England would win the penalty shoot-out.
Ever since the Scots showed England‘s ‘dribblers’ how to win by short-passing the ball in the 1870s we have struggled to keep up with changes in the international game.
We didn’t think it necessary to play in the ‘foreign’ World Cups of the 1930s, we lost to the US in 1950, Hungary and Brazil humbled us a few years later and, apart from that glorious win in 1966, we’ve not been close to a trophy since.
So can we wrest any comfort from our defeat and thoroughly embarrassing chasing by Italy in the quarter finals?
Er, maybe, but first the bad news.
We are so in love with ourselves that we are paralysed. The Premier league is so good that we can fool ourselves into thinking we are a great football nation.
We stare narcissistically into the HD mirror of our top division and see ourselves as THE power in world football.
See how the world loves our game! Look at the top stars queueing for their slice of Sky pie!
We entertain the world and give some of the planet’s top players god-like wealth.
But strip away the replica shirts and Super Sundays and the Premier League’s brilliance is built on emotion, effort and foreigners.
We are addicted to the excitement and dazzle of our football and our addiction stops us nurturing the future of the game we are so obsessed with.
Just look at a few stats from Sunday night:
England’s most successful passing combination against Italy was Joe Hart to Andy Carroll with 18 ‘passes’.
Andrea Pirlo made 115 passes - more than England’s four starting midfielders combined.
England’s players ran on average 102 kilometres in their four matches. Italy’s ran 7.5km further.
So what can we do? Lots, but none of it new.
Have a winter break, lose our ‘get in there and bust it’ attitude to kids’ football. Build a national academy at Burton, bring in top coaching methods to teach young players to be comfortable with a football and develop their talent. Spanish and German kids are not inherently better than ours, they’re just taught better.
Put FA and Sky money in to create coaching, talent-spotting and development structures around the country, learn patience and allow new types of players to develop. Above all, we must learn from our historical mistakes and turn away from the bewitching Sky TV mirror that says all is well.
We knew most of this 30 years ago. It’s high time we did something about it.