Priorities must change for England to succeed
Euro 2012: Krakow
England left Krakow on Monday afternoon accompanied by the usual inquest into the national team's shortcomings.
Penalties again. The quarter finals again. Failure to keep the ball against better opponents again.
This is by now a well-trodden path and it is credit to the new England manager Roy Hodgson that he has even managed to come up to the England team's traditional par for big tournaments. I cannot help wonder what the national response would have been had Fabio Capello delivered this return.
Yet six games into the job there is no question there is a lot to be positive about. Well-drilled and well-organised, England were hard to beat at Euro 2012.
More importantly perhaps the players seemed to enjoy playing for their country again. If you doubted this was the case in the past, one only has to recall Jamie Carragher's comments in his autobiography.
He wrote "I confess: defeats wearing an England shirt never hurt me in the same way as losing with my club."
But here it did seem to matter, a feeling summed up best by the way England captain Steven Gerrard - Carragher's team-mate at Liverpool - carried himself.
He and Hodgson seem to have formed a close bond during Euro 2012 - not quite Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower or Martin Johnson and Sir Clive Woodward - but the start of something which strikes a different tone to the one we became used to when John Terry had the armband. Gerrard has grown into the captaincy and if his legs can keep going he should lead the team again in Brazil (provided England qualify of course).
The poor image of England's footballers has not always been deserved. The overpaid, overhyped tag is an overused cliche but it also taps into a deeper sense of public resentment about the way failure seems to be so well rewarded in the national sport.
At least England's mission to be good tourists in Poland and Ukraine struck the right note - a touch of humility amplifying the greater sense of footballing realism so ably expressed by Hodgson, a great communicator.
The visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau leaps out as a moment when the Football Association finally understood its responsibilities beyond just shuttling millionaire players between five-star hotels and gleaming foreign stadiums.
Seeing Wayne Rooney visibly moved by the horror of the gas chambers and telling journalists how he had recently watched the World at War is a sign of growing maturity off the pitch, even if the old shortcomings exist on it.
The FA and its chairman David Bernstein deserve great credit for tackling that head on.
But the fundamental problems in the English game have not changed from South Africa two years ago.
That will take a lot, lot longer - and probably will not be solved by the time Hodgson's four-year contract has expired.
The National Football Centre and the new Youth Development Programme is a clear attempt to address the failings of the past decade. Bernstein says that in the future there will be more emphasis on small-sided matches, skill-based football, passing the ball and less focus on physicality.
That is the exact antithesis of the way England played in this tournament.
And while the game's authorities have made a start on changing the culture of the game with more money going into the academy system, the really nasty statistic in English football which needs urgent attention is that just over a third of the Premier League's players are English.
Hodgson says he is not convinced by the argument that the league fights the interests of the national team. He insisted there are enough capable English players in the system to fashion a good side.
But the announcement of the Premier League's new £3bn domestic TV deal with Sky and BT - timed with precision just before the group game against Sweden - provided a reminder of the English game's commercial imperatives.
Yes there will potentially now be more money for youth development. But in the relentless drive to keep TV companies and audiences around the world happy, how much importance will club chairmen place on recruiting young English talent with all that money for foreign superstars burning a hole in their pockets?
In the end England found their level at Euro 2012.
But until there is a greater balance in the system - a winter break, a limit on foreign players in the Premier League - then regardless of who the manager is or how the team conduct themselves, it is likely to be the same old story.