A lot has been written about the failures of the England football team, specifically what went wrong and who we can blame. Not enough has been said, in my opinion, about what can be done to rescue England from another tournament travesty in two years' time (if we're lucky enough to qualify) or four years' time (ditto). So I've decided to grasp the nettle and come up with a plan. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments...
1. Learn to pass the fucking ball properly. Passing is a good way of getting the ball from one player to another. A lot of football teams - ones which pundits will bewilderingly describe as being 'not as good on paper as England' - like doing this, and they can do it rather well. Passes are good when they go to someone on your team, and not someone on the other team. Special note for Steven Gerrard: Passes don't necessarily have to be raking 60-yard crossfield balls. If you've got a friend you'd like to pass to just a few feet away, why not let him have a bash with the ball for a bit?
2. Taxi for Beckham. How many times did the camera cut to Nonpreciousmetalballs Beckham grimacing away making vague sex faces during the World Cup? Did we really need to see him all the time? Sure, there was a time when Good Old Becks would get us out of a hole with a well-taken free-kick, but that time's gone. I hate to say it of someone the same age as me, but he's past it, and slow, and can't tackle. Saying 'thanks but no thanks' was a good move from Steve McClaren, one of his better decisions. Sure, he's an ambassadorial figure, etc etc, good for the lad and I know he's worked hard, but he's not a good enough footballer to be in the team on merit; and certainly not a good enough coach to be in the coaching staff on merit.
3. Drop players who are playing like shit. It seems an obvious enough move, doesn't it? But we're back at Beckham again here for this one, in a lot of ways. When he was top dog, there was no way he was ever going to be dropped, regardless of how badly he was playing. "Ah, but it's Becks," people would say. "Look at what he's done in the past, you can't drop a player of that class." You can, and should, if he's lumbering around like he's in a suit of armour. For Beckham then, read Rooney now. How many inept first touches, hopeless bits of control and feeble attempts on goal does it take to bring it home? "Ah, but it's Rooney, look at what he did for Manchester United several months ago." I couldn't give a shit! If he's not delivering in an England shirt, get him on the plane home.
4. Stop hoofing it up there like some bloody kind of non-league centre back trying to clear the ball into the allotments. A little hoof every now and then is understandable; resorting to lumping the ball skywards every 10 seconds when a midfielder isn't immediately available just seems a little bit on the lazy side. And yes, Peter Crouch is tall, and yes, Emile Heskey is good at winning knock-downs; but Jesus Christ, how many goals do England actually score from speculative punts that go miles in the air? And yet, we never learn.
5. Furthermore, any parent standing on a touchline telling his child to whack the ball miles upfield at the earliest opportunity should be taken away and beaten to death, then hung in a barbed-wire basket at the entrance to the little league playing fields, as a warning to others. It's only right and proper.
6. Realise that we don't deserve to win anything. We're fucking well England, not Brazil. We won the World Cup once. Once! And it was 44 years ago. In the meantime, while everyone else has learned to play football, we've stood still and kept our fingers crossed that somehow everything will suddenly slot into place. It's not going to just happen. There is not and was never a Golden Bloody Generation. Winning tournaments means hard work, skilled players and a bit of luck. We're just hoping for a bit of luck.
7. Stop defending like twats. Again, this may seem an obvious point to make, but apparently not. While many other nations have realised the importance of stopping goals from going in, we haven't. It might make for an exciting Premiership to see goals whistling in from all angles every few minutes, but it's not so good when your national side's matches deserve to be replayed to the Benny Hill theme tune.
8. If you're told to play somewhere, fucking play there. Don't grumble behind closed doors about how you think you'd be better off somewhere else. Have a word with the boss if you're peeved, then if he won't change his mind accept the decision and play your heart out. You're in the immensely privileged position of playing international football and representing your homeland on the world stage - yet you want to whimper about how you reckon you'd be much better off in another position. Here's another position for you - on the fucking subs bench. Better still, watching the match on the 50ft cinema screen in your enormous mansion. See how you like that.
9. Don't slag off your own fans. You might be used to undying adulation at your club side, but those are people who've been on a coach from Surrey for five hours to come up and watch you play in Manchester or Liverpool. They're just happy to be there. They'd be happy if you jogged up and down the touchline, or wore a funny hat. England fans are even more loyal to the cause - they can't choose to support Brazil just because they're the best team, like a lot of your fans choose to follow your club because they want success and can't bear the thought of having to deal with defeat. We love you, honestly we do. But don't play like shit and then get the hump. Try scoring some goals. Or playing like you're not some overweight plumber turning out in Sunday League with a hangover. That might help smooth things over.
10. Don't raise our hopes. Please, if you're going to be cack in a tournament, just play that way in the qualifying campaign so we can have some warning about it. Don't go looking pretty competent during qualification, lulling us into that foolish idea that you might actually be quite good this time, then turn to shit at the first kick when it really matters. Just be consistent. Consistently good would be nice; consistently shit would be less preferable, but at least it would be consistent.