"Let's be a bit realistic here," suggested Trevor Brooking yesterday as England's prospects in this summer's European Championship were discussed, "we have gone 46 years without winning something."
On a grey day at Wembley the mood was not buoyant, unsurprisingly so for a team who have lost a captain and, rather more importantly, a manager a matter of months before the tournament. There seemed an almost unconscious attempt to play down expectations for the summer. The future is bright for whoever the new man might be, but that is a long-term forecast by the Football Association.
The talk was of building a new England structure with a new manager to oversee it all. Of building for Brazil 2014, the 2016 European Championship and even the Russian World Cup in 2018 – not sweeping all before in Poland and Ukraine come June and July.
"We haven't won a tournament for 46 years so when we go this summer, were we the favourites whether Fabio was in charge or not?" reiterated Brooking. "No we wouldn't have been because you've got Holland, Germany and Spain."
Brooking is one of the four-strong Club England board who have "cleared their diaries" for today to begin the process of replacing Capello. Sitting next to him yesterday was Club England's managing director, Adrian Bevington. "What's our record in European Championship history?" Bevington said – England have reached one semi-final in the current format. "It's a huge challenge."
Bevington, like Brooking, has been involved in planning for the long term, a plan that was supposed to come into effect post the Euros, when Capello was supposed to depart.
A replacement will be found by the FA team of Bevington, Brooking, David Bernstein and Alex Horne ahead of time, but the message was that the planning remains focused on the horizon, not necessarily it seems on the Euros (although the logistics for the finals are already all in place).
"We have to get an improvement and who's to say when it's going to come?" Brooking said. "But let's not get this expectancy that whoever comes in is going to suddenly start delivering us championships."