England look to put World Cup behind them
England coach Fabio Capello has apologised twice now for his team's miserable World Cup campaign, while captain Steven Gerrard has said he would probably boo the national side if he was a spectator at Wembley on Wednesday for the friendly against Hungary.
It is fair to say both men are expecting a hostile reaction from fans following England's disastrous South African campaign, which culminated in the humiliating 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Germany in Bloemfontein on 27 June. Some England supporters I know certainly plan to attend the game to register their dismay with the national side.
Wembley is unlikely to be anywhere near full for the game against Hungary - despite the Football Association's best attempts to get people through the turnstiles by cutting ticket prices - because of the fractured relationship between the fans and the players.
A review of England's World Cup campaign
Gerrard himself conceded during Tuesday's media session that playing for England is a tricky proposition at the moment but hopes to put things right swiftly. "We have to show how sorry we are by doing it on the pitch," said the Liverpool midfielder, one of 10 players from Capello's 23-man World Cup squad set to feature against the Hungarians.
It will be interesting to see what sort of reception Capello himself receives at Wembley. The Italian has listed several reasons why he thinks England underperformed in South Africa but his own role has been the subject of some intense criticism, too.
Personally, I think it is impossible to establish with any degree of certainty whether the failure lies more with Capello or his players.
Maybe England just aren't good enough. After failing to qualify for Euro 2008 under Steve McClaren and suffering elimination at the quarter-final stage of the three previous major finals under Sven-Goran Eriksson, supporters could be forgiven for wondering if their country will ever seriously threaten to win an international tournament again.
Wednesday's match is unlikely to provide any firm answers on that score but Gerrard has expressed his hope that, if nothing else, it marks the start of a revival. "Hopefully we can regroup, move forward together and turn things around," he stated.
England begin their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign against Bulgaria in 23 days and Capello needs to breathe some life into a tired outfit, bereft of the verve and fearlessness that was a feature of the youthful German side that knocked them out of the World Cup.
The selection of rising stars Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs, plus the recall of Adam Johnson and Theo Walcott, may help. Wilshere, in particular, is regarded as an exceptional talent, although the 18-year-old midfielder has yet to establish himself in the Arsenal first team, spending the second half of last season on loan at Bolton.
It would be unwise to expect too much from Wilshere but Capello is obviously banking on an injection of fresh faces to help lift the gloom over England.
England need to repair the damaged relationship with their supporters
I suspect it will take more than a few cameos from the likes of Wilshere or Gibbs to placate supporters and bring the belief flooding back but the match against Hungary may at least provide some closure after a dismal few weeks for the national side.
I'll be at Wembley to cover the game but I'm keen to find out what you, the fans, would like or expect to see from England. Should Wilshere play from the start? What tactics should Capello employ? Do the players deserve to be booed? Does this game mean anything? And what have England got to do to convince you they have learned the lessons from South Africa? Whatever your thoughts, I'd love to hear them.