England can't win the World Cup, the domestic game is broken, and it's those dirty foreigners who're to blame. Or so it goes if you're Greg Dyke, the FA's new chairman. And when it comes to the English FA, really, two out of three ain't bad—at least not compared to their usual form.
"I don't think we're as weak as has been suggested," was Steven Gerrard's necessary reaction when drawn into the latest England controversy. "Realistically, everyone in the room knows we're not going to be one of the bookies' favourites to win the World Cup. It doesn't mean we can't get there and have a successful tournament to make the country proud."
England will still be favourites to emerge from Group H one way or another, but the surprising showing so far of Montenegro—shock group leaders by two points, though after having played one more game than England—and Tuesday opponents Ukraine a point behind them in third mean it's far from guaranteed.
"Playing at a World Cup," added Gerrard, "the pinnacle of any footballer’s dream as a kid, especially in Brazil, is enough motivation for me. But we don't want to get ahead of ourselves. Our priority is to get there first. To qualify is the challenge. We want to qualify for the World Cup, go there and make the nation proud. We can do that without winning it."
First, qualification. Then probably not winning but hopefully putting on a decent show. Then maybe trying to fix the English game by improving youth development and training as has happened in countries like Germany and Spain rather than through artificial constructs to keep Johnny Foreigner from crossing the Channel.