For those looking in on England’s progress over the past decade, it is clear that both supporters and media oscillate wildly from boundless optimism to the depths of despair.
The Three Lions are either World-beaters or a bunch of over-paid prima donnas not worthy of the shirt – you would be led to believe anyway.
The feeling has certainly been leaning towards the latter over the past year, as the fall-out from the disastrous 2010 World Cup continues to hang over Wembley like a bad smell.
However, a new season brings new optimism and following a convincing 3-0 win over Bulgaria in the first live football of the new international season that got England’s Euro 2012 qualifying campaign back on track, suddenly all the talk is of ‘new eras’ and ‘daring to dream’.
This is, of course, all part of being an England fan and the need to take a bucket load of salt with each glowing or scathing reference of the side has never been more important than when assessing the progress of Capello’s generation.
Hence why I feel the Italian should urge caution ahead of the crucial clash with Wales at Wembley on Tuesday.
It is a game, by rights, England should win easily. As bizarre as the FIFA rankings are they aren’t that inaccurate to suggest the gap between the two sides is any smaller than the current 113 places.
But the ‘derby’ aspect should not be discounted, with players on both sides familiar with each other from domestic encounters. In one of the more eye-catching football scores on Friday, Wales were mightily impressive in beating Montenegro – something England failed to do of course . And although they will be without the influential duo David Vaughan and Craig Bellamy, the presence of Tottenham’s Gareth Bale is enough to keep the England defenders busy.
Damaging draws with Montenegro and Switzerland mean England are still behind schedule in terms of sealing qualification. A tricky trip to Podgorica for their final game means they simply cannot afford any more costly slip-ups. The Euro 2008 nightmare is already rearing its ugly head at the backs of England supporter’s minds.
But a professional performance against Gary Speed’s men will mean only a draw against Montenegro will suffice to ensure qualification – and getting draws away in final qualification group matches seems to be something England are, unbelievably, quite good at.