Upon Roy Hodgson’s appointment as England manager ahead of Euro 2012, the nation was prepared to be patient.
By the time Italy had knocked England out on penalties at the quarter final stage patience had transformed in to hope; hope that Hodgson might be the right man for the job, that we were not as bad as we thought and that we might even have a team capable of competing in Brazil.
Fast-forward two years and Hodgson now faces a difficult period with a media lurking over his shoulder and a nation whose good will has all but run out.
The attendance for last week’s 1-0 defeat of Norway, which crept above 40,000, is testimony to the fact that much of England’s football community have finally lost faith in an underperforming national team.
Danny Welbeck’s double in a 2-0 defeat of Switzerland in England’s first Euro 2016 qualifier went some way to restoring a bit of pride, though there’s still a long, long way to go.
Let’s pause for a second though: it ought to be remembered that the current squad is short on international experience.
When you consider that, in addition to this, much of the squad have shown they take time to settle in to new environments, it is somewhat less surprising that we have seen the national team fail to meet expectations in the past two years.
In 2012 Jordan Henderson, now one of the first names on the Liverpool team sheet, was on the verge of a move to Fulham, a makeweight in a player-plus-cash deal for Clint Dempsey.
Having struggled to make an impact at Anfield after his big money move from Sunderland, Brendan Rodgers had decided that Liverpool was one step too far for the young midfielder.
As they say, the rest is now history, and after getting a chance due to injuries, Henderson has now gained the trust of his manager and has gone on to become a consistent performer at the heart of Rodgers’ midfield.
England new boy Fabian Delph was another expected to take the Premier League by storm after signing for Aston Villa from Leeds as a teenager in August 2009.
However, in spite of starting on the opening day of the 2009-10 season, lack of form and injuries saw Delph’s progress stunted as he made only 26 league appearances in two and a half years.
A loan spell back to first club Leeds for the second half of the 2011-12 season proved a turning point, then, after returning to Villa in June 2012, Delph has racked up 54 league games in the past two seasons and even forced his way into the England squad five years after his rise to stardom.
With a handful of players, including Phil Jones, Jack Wilshere and by and large Welbeck despite his performance against the Swiss, struggling to live up to expectations after bursting on to the scene as teenagers, and others such as Calum Chambers and John Stones with only a handful of club level appearances to their name, it is going to take time for the current squad to develop into consistent performers on the international stage.
However, facing a relatively easy qualifying group, now is the time to continue to blood the next generation and build a team and squad ready to compete in 2016.
Following the retirements of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole, who have made 327 international appearances between them, the total number of caps in the England squad drop by almost 50%: the current squad boasts only just over 400 altogether, with Wayne Rooney, James Milner and Joe Hart holding almost half of those.
Looking ahead to the first campaign without any of England’s supposed golden generation, patience is once again the word. Hodgson must reshape a team that was previously built around Steven Gerrard.
Crucially he must decide where captain Rooney fits and how he will get the most out of the ever improving Raheem Sterling.
Big decisions lie ahead and making them quickly will hand Hodgson the best opportunity to produce a team that can compete in France in two years. Indeed, the manager will be hoping that his players can replicate the growth they have shown with their clubs on the international stage.
Patience may once again give way to hope.
Main image courtesy of England Football Official via YouTube, with thanks.