Last night's experience as an England fan felt like so many others. For the last ten years England have specialised in squandering one-goal leads. Instead of carrying the fight forward after the interval the boys in white retreat to the edge of the penalty box and stand there like so many penyatas and the
opposition batter them til they cough up their goodies.
Last night reached new levels of bipolarity. For 45 minutes, England zipped the ball about with no little precision. There was the usual mixture of pass and move from off the Man U training ground and the occasional aimless lump up the park.
But Brnovic's chippy assumption that England would be scared proved unfounded. The Montenegran manager piggy black eyes seemed devoid of answers. Worse still, Wayne Rooney was having a good day.
Then came half-time. Lord knows what Roy said to his players.
Perhaps it was "don't fuck this up, boys!" Or maybe "be afwaid, be very afwaid!" Or simply "whey-heyyyy 1-0!!! Great wesult lads!!! Who's off for a Balkan bevvy?... What? Another half? Oh bugger!"
Whatever it was, the team - the same team, mind you, unless the power of top Premier League clubs means that Hodgson is forced to play replicants in the second half in order to save their stars for Saturday - came out and played really fucking badly.
Some credit must go to Brnovic for changing it round at half-time and stifling Johnson and Cole's progress. But hellfire it was hardly a stroke of genius. What was baffling was the fact that Hodgson seemed incapable or recognising how bad his team were. I was surprised to see Cleverley substituted because I'd forgotten he was on the park. (He's starting to annoy me that lad. It all looks nice
enough but he achieves nowt.)
To me the player that typifies Hodgson's England is James Milner. Now you can't fault the lad's work-rate. He goes through a pair of bollocks every game. But my God you just screamed out for someone with a bit of wit to be out on the right.
Time and again he fired a cross along the six-yard box. Hard, low and hopeful. Even Theo Walcott or Aaron Lennon, headless chickens both, might have had a little look and picked someone out.
Nevertheless, there is something relentlessly worthy about Milner. He's like a sheepdog, but less inclined to think for himself.
All sorts of things annoyed me about that match. By the end I felt like I'd spent the night dodging crumpled balls of paper, picking up bog rolls, wandering through the acrid smoke thrown up by flares, or simply standing by some bloke with a mike in his and and a voice like the gaping maw of hell. That bloke made me hanker for the tranquil days of 2010 and the vuvuzuela. If he'd have been standing next to me that microphone lead would've be acting like an enema on his innards. (Not pretty but very fair.
Every time Hart took a goal-kick he pinged it out towards Milner and Montenegro got a throw-in. That supposed penalty England should've got was denied them because Welbeck went for the Stevie G swan-dive. Try and score a goal you great nelly!
And then there's the perennial problem with Hodgson's England that when in doubt they simply sit on the edge of their box and hoof it back to the opposition over and over and OVER AGAIN! Like some namby-pamby student protest in the late 70s.
In the light of the first 20 minutes of the second half, the only question was who would Roy bring on?
Perhaps Scott Parker could go on and throw himself in front of Vucinic for thirty minutes. Oxlade-Chamberlain to give England a little more devil? Jermain Defoe to see whether a greedy goal-hanger could grab that second goal? Well, I tell you what, Roy, ANYBODY would have done. Nobody was not an option.
While Brnovic chucked on forward after forward, Roy stood there tweaking his bottom lip like a kid wondering if he might be able to nip over the neighbour's fence and get his ball back.
Now I like Roy. He's straightforward, honest, and not inclined to get too excited or too down-hearted. Nevertheless it's disheartening to hear him say that that was 'not a bad result'. After the first half it was a terrible result - and more to the point a terrible performance.
If I hear Gerrard, in that post-match whine of his, say 'we didn't keep hold of the ball well enough' one more time I'm going to throw myself into a vat of beer and never emerge. It's not a bad way to go. In fact, throw Hayley Atwell in after us and I'll take it.
The fact is England have been like this as a team for bloody years. All the expectation - bloated by the fact that our lads play in the best League in the world even though only Cole, Gerrard and Hart can hold down a starting place on a regular basis - has been frittered away.
Hodgson has carried on where Capello and Eriksson have left off. Team after team lack the courage or confidence to seea game through, to kill the opposition off. It's like watching Aston Villa sometimes.
At half time yesterday I just sat back and waited for the inevitable retreat. Only when England have been unmanned by a sending-off or the tag of underdogs do they ever put in a proper shift - and even then that's your bog-standard heroic failure.
I'm sure they're fed up of it. I bloody well am.
The only option is the German model - bring in a whole new array of young lads. Let them have four years together. Keep the same coach over that time, regardless. See what we end up with. It cannot be worse than what we have. Can it?