So England failed to live up to expectations in the World Cup again (44 years and counting now) - but is anyone really surprised? Being an England football fan is very like being a Cleveland sports fan (Full disclosure: I have lived in the Cleveland area since 1991). Hope always springs eternal only for those hopes to be dashed, often in heartbreaking style. Remember the hand of God, the drive, the fumble, Craig Ehlo, Jose Mesa, etc.
However I think the English soccer malaise can be traced back to a loss of grit. Football in England was always a blue-collar game - all flat caps, Players No. 6 and half time cups of tea. The players were blue collar as well, not making much more money than many who watched from the stands. The game was tough and hard men dominated, yet skill emerged and it was beautiful to watch. In my youth, artists such as Rodney Marsh, Tony Currie, Alan Hudson, Rodney Marsh, and the incomparable George Best (I know he was from Northern Ireland) lit up the pitch on a Saturday afternoon before jumping into their Ford Capri's with a "dolly bird" for a night of Watney's Red Barrel and Babycham.
Today the England team is populated by overpaid prima donna's making a hundred grand a week with a trophy WAG and a Bentley alongside the Lambo. Not much to worry about really and a failure in South Africa will result in a castigation in the press and a few boos at the first game of next season and then the new contract will kick in and it will be time to decide whether to add a Bugatti Veyron to the fleet.
Call me a grumpy old man - but things ain't what they used to be!