England lose to Croatia and fail to qualify for the European Championships. Everyone's pissed off. McClaren gets fired, but that's just one ingredient of the English game's problems agree most commentators. Barwick, Thompson - the FA 'administrators' - announce that there will be a 'root and branch' review of the game. The players return to their clubs.
Capello is straight out of the traps. He wants the job. The administrators get over-excited. There will be a week of blacked out limos, secret meetings, and ego boosting on their part - as they hang out with bigger football men than themselves.
Barwick pours the coffee in a box in a deserted Wembley Stadium, whilst the Italian pours compliment upon compliment upon the English game, the job, Barwick and his administrators. They shake hands on a deal and Barwick can barely contain his excitement that he's landed someone with credibility, and he hasn't been made to look like a prick again. The 'root and branch' review of the game slips a notch or two down Barwick's 'To Do' list. He'll look at it in January.
The next day, the press and the game's heavyweights are up for it too. They devote a page to their 'if anyone can do it, Fab can' puff pieces - sandwiched between two double page spreads, previewing Sky Sports' Grand Slam Super Sunday.
In February, Capello's first game in charge, England beat Belgium 4-0 in a friendly. Goals from Crouch, Lampard and two from Michael Owen confirm that England are back. England are installed as fourth favourites for the World Cup. That week the Premier League announce a new multi-million pound sponsorship deal with Chinese PC manufacturer Lenovo. Still no news on the 'root and branch' review of the game.
On the domestic scene, "one of the world's best midfielders," Steven Gerrard has added to his achievements in the game by winning another 2 FA Cups. Milan and Barcelona win the Champions League in '08 and '09 without a single English player in sight. In fact, there are no English players playing in Serie A or La Liga - not even a hint of a transfer rumour.
England qualify comfortably. The players arrive in South Africa. There are injury concerns over Owen and John Terry. Capello confirms that they are simply 'niggles' and both should be fit for England's opening game against the Ivory Coast in Durban. The word from the camp is that Owen's groin has been playing up again - he's been carrying it since February but his club didn't want him back on the operating table. John Terry's defensive partner at Chelsea, Micah Richards, has played 50 games during the season.
A goalless draw sees England through to the 2nd round, but they are up against a resurgent Dutch side. Again, injuries are an issue. Terry's niggle has developed. He's out. Rooney is suspended after 2 yellows in the opening three games - brought about through needless, reckless challenges. The press question his ability to handle pressure and expectation at the highest level. Lampard has failed to impose himself on the tournament so far and has looked tired physically and mentally.
Marco Van Basten's side look energised, youthful and refreshed. A previously unheard of 19 year striker - Jans Sodderland from Ajax - shocks England. His hat-trick is billed as the 'hat-trick that shocked the world.' England are out, losing to the Dutch 3-1.
Capello honourably resigns. The FA promise a 'root and branch' review of the game. But they also realise they're a damn sight richer than they were 2 years ago. Jose Mourinho suggests to friends that he could be tempted to return to England....