For all the sporting success England has enjoyed over the past 20 years, its men’s football team remains the one which, for most people, determines the sporting identity of the nation.
Over the past two decades there have been memorable and long-awaited World Cup wins for England teams in rugby union and cricket, and the country has, of course, played a major part in Britain’s emergence as an Olympic and Paralympic superpower.
Yet, until recently, the football team had proved stubbornly unable to follow suit. An outlier.
After reaching the semi-finals of both the 1990 World Cup and Euro ’96, England became sadly symbolic of sporting underachievement. And for many fans this period of failure was made more frustrating given it coincided with the growth and success of the Premier League. Many wondered if it may indeed be partly to blame, with the influx of overseas managers and players.
For years, every major tournament setback seemed to be a precursor to managerial resignations,…