Watching England take on Estonia on Sunday night, there was a strong sense of everything seeming all too familiar.
Roy Hodgson’s men come away from Tallin with the required three points, but did so in the frustratingly laboured manner that England fans have become accustomed to when watching their national side.
Wayne Rooney’s second-half free kick was enough to decide an uninspiring, insipid affair and ensure that the Three Lions maintain a ‘perfect’ start to their Euro 2016 qualification campaign.
However, there still remains the paradox of how a side filled with such fresh, exciting talent can produce such impotent, ineffective football.
This puzzling contradiction has been present for much of England’s footballing history, causing fans to tread a well-worn path of emotions before, during and after every competitive fixture in recent times.
Firstly, there is the upsurge in optimism and excitement with loyal followers believing that a dominant England performance is imminent, taking into account the plethora of world-class players at the disposal of the national coach.
Anxiety and despair follow, as time and again long-suffering England fans are forced to sit through turgid, stuttering displays where our true standing in world football is laid bare for all to see.
Then comes a degree of pragmatism, as more-often-than-not the men representing England did get the job done. Unfortunately not in the manner many fans believe we are entitled to as a supposed bastion of the beautiful game, but thankfully it is a common English trait to always look on the bright side of life.
And then the cycle begins again. There are whisperings that this time things will be different, and the long-overdue performance of utter supremacy is just around the corner.
Maybe the new manager will make the difference? Maybe the new formation will transform the side? Maybe the 18-year-old making his debut will become the next saviour of English football?
Fans begin to dream again, believing the time has come to remind the rest of the world of our status as a footballing power-house.
Unfortunately for everybody involved, we just aren’t as good as we think we are. The frustrating fact is that over the last decade England sides have performed at a level where they are less than the sum of their highly-paid parts.
The national side appear to have perfected the art of making mountains out of molehills. The 1-0 victory against Estonia proved this.
BBC statistics show England had 77% of possession, firing 25 efforts at the Estonian goal. However, in reality this was not so much a thunderous bombardment as a polite enquiry towards the possibility of scoring.
Despite the sending-off of Estonian captain Ragnar Klavan early in the second half, England continued to huff and puff ineffectively in front of the home side’s compact defence in a truly mundane display of attacking football.
Rooney finally broke the deadlock in the 73rd minute, notching his 43rd international strike with a well-placed free kick and moving to fourth on England’s all-time goal-scorers list.
Against inferior opposition, this performance lacked creative spark or much in the way of a cutting edge for fans to get excited about. Nevertheless, here comes the aforementioned pragmatism.
England are top of Group E, having conceded no goals and collected all nine points on offer from their first three games in the qualification campaign.
Next up are Slovenia in November, and there is a reasonable possibility of England wining all ten of their group games in the process of progressing to Euro 2016.
The Three Lions will undoubtedly be roared on by vociferous home support, who will have forgotten previous disappointments and eagerly await the outstanding performance that we all know is just around the corner.
After all, the glass has to remain half-full when you support England.
Main image courtesy of Nike Football via YouTube, with thanks.