The nation awaited as Ricky Hatton promised to become the 'greatest', the 'best' and the 'most famous' boxer in the world. While the odd sports journalist popped in the odd jab, with warnings about the massive gap in class between Hatton and his opponent Floyd Mayweather, they were out-punched by the nationalistic and groundlessly opportunistic tabloid sports writers. We were promised by the tabloids that a down-to-earth man would be able to demonstrate that the staples of the British identity (a poor diet and copious amounts of beer) were more than a match for Johnny Foreigner. Unfortunately he lost and we were all left to vote for the 'other boxer', Joe Calzaghe, for the BBC's Sports Personality award.
With the rugby team falling at the final stage and Louis Hamilton demonstrating that hubris does not necessarily lead to championships, not to mention the failure of the football team to even get to a stage where they could be judged as failures, we have been left with a bit of a sports vacuum. Failing another success at an obscure sport of little note until we win a medal in it (e.g. our towering sporting success at curling), we are going to have to put all our efforts back into the national sport, and into a brand new manager.
England managers have always been hard done by. Considering the fact that there are very few players of any real ability, coupled with the fact that those very same players are paid ridiculous wages that gives young men, from generally poor backgrounds, a level of pomp and omnipotence few political leaders will ever have, has meant that their is a massive gulf between expectations and reality. These managers have perpetuated this problem by consistently promising the world because that is, it seems, the main part of their job. Steve McClaren was the biggest failure England have ever had, largely due to the fact that he embodied both the mediocrity of the English team and the illusory nature of the England 'team'.
Now we have Capello and he is going to be the man who sorts out the prima donas who will make us all fighters. Already though we have the tabloids questioning his nationality, not to mention his grasp of English which, admittedly does appear to be more than limited. In response we have soundbites from the Brian Barwick and attempted soundbites from Capello himself.
Perhaps the answer to success for England (apart from nurturing better players) is to simply cut out the heavy-handed politics and concentrate on what is, after all, a sport? Or perhaps Bill Shankly was only a little bit off the mark when he said football was more important than life and death, perhaps it more important to the English nation than reality.