England often fare better in qualification than they do when they reach major tournaments, and whoever succeds Fabio Capello was given a golden ticket for Brazil with a lucky escape in the draw for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Second last to be drawn out of the pot, England narrowly avoided the fate of being placed in a five-team group with France, a fate which instead fell to World Cup holders and current European champions Spain when their ball was last to be pulled out.
It meant England were paired with Montenegro, Ukraine, Poland, Moldova and San Marino, leaving Spain with the trickier task of negotiating a group comprising France, Belarus, Georgia and Finland.
Even so, nothing is ever straight-forward with England, who must complete the process of choosing their next manager before qualification begins.
As Fabio Capello – who steps down as England manager after Euro 2012 – warned, shortly after the draw was made in Rio de Janeiro : “It is not an easy draw. You have to be really, really focused and play every game like a final – but that will be another manager’s job.”
The stand-out favourite to get the job with most bookmakers is Harry Redknapp, who is clearly the popular choice among fans – not least because he is English. Redknapp has fared magnificently since he took charge at Tottenham, who were the dazzling surprise package in last season’s Champions League. But you can never take anything for certain with the FA, who have a previous history of overlooking the best man for the England ever since they stubbornly refused to give the legendary Brian Clough the top job.
My bet is that the FA will keep their options open until the last minute and I would not be surprised if Jose Mourinho is high on their list. It is easy to make a strong case for the former Chelsea boss who has broadened his experience and reputation at Inter Milan and Real Madrid since leaving Stamford Bridge. But, in my book, the national manager must be English.
England’s claim to be a force in world football is nothing more than a fraudulent whim if we can’t find a manager to lead our country, and there is no shortage of candidates who could do the job just as well as Capello has done at the staggering cost of £6 million a year. Roy Hodgson is another top boss who has the experience and the stature, despite his failure at Liverpool. But Redknapp is surely the outstanding English manager of the current generation.