God bless Wayne’s socks and metatarsals

I'm still in a deep depression over England. I was so pissed off by their display against Egypt, and even more so by the under-21s against Greece. In each case, smaller, cleverer, more skilful players made them look lumps, even though the senior team did manage to put in half an hour as if they'd played the game before.

Will you stop going on about it, said my wife. You're just typical of all the slobs who sit slumped in front of the telly with their lager and crisps, shouting at players who are trying their best. No crisp has passed these fair lips for over a year, and you know I do not drink beer. Anyway, I was not slumped.

I was up, shouting at them. Very exhausting. And if you are suggesting I am a pure armchair critic, look at these Wembley programmes. I have been there, on the front line, shouting. So what's happened? I mean to England, not me. I am in my prime, on a winning streak. Just that midweek going to Wembley, my poorly knee is not up to it.

One thing all fans have been aware of since football began is that some players do not develop. In recent years, I thought Franny Jeffers was a brilliant player - as did Wenger - now where is he? Gorn. Alan Smith, with his baby lips, seemed destined for greatness; now he is at Newcastle, doing well, but second-level well.

Jack Wilshere - God, I loved the first sight of that left foot in action - now he is out on loan to, er, somewhere or other. Theo Walcott? Since the last World Cup, has he developed the way we all expected? Not doing bad, last week anyway, but not good enough. Chris Smalling of Fulham, going to Man U for a vast sum, is today's wonder boy, destined for greatness, so all the experts say. Wake me up when he gets there. Joe Cole? Still don't understand what's happened. Nor does anyone else. Michael Owen did reach a peak, for a while, but he would have kept it up if he had been as good as we all said he was.

Perhaps the problem is us - we oversell, over-praise, get carried away. But I also blame the English coaching system. Watching the under-21s, we seem besotted with big strapping lads, ahead of their years in physique, but backward in technique. Look at Messi, look at most of the Spanish team. They are puny - but totally in control of every ball. The only Brit player I can think of, de nos jours, who has truly fulfilled his promise is Wayne. He was a teenage wonder - now he is a 24-year-old wonder. God bless his socks and metatarsals.

Thinking of all those who showed promise and didn't develop, I then thought, oh no, could that also be Capello's England? Early doors, storming through the World Cup qualifiers, they impressed everyone. Since then, hmm, not beaten any team that was half decent, and struggled against the ordinary. Which, alas, is what England is.

No use saying it's only been friendlies, as Spain, Argentina and Brazil in their friendlies pulled further ahead, leaving us behind. Shouting at the telly, though, that's a good sign. Shows we still care.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 15 March 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Falklands II