Let me say straight away that I feel sorry for Robert Green after the goal which cost England victory against the United States last night. Yes, Robert made a very good save in the second half when he pushed Jozy Altidore's shot on to a post – but the bottom line is that he cost us the win.
Having said that, we should still go on and qualify from this group. Don't forget that we drew our first game in 1966, a really frustrating goalless game against Uruguay at Wembley. The press got on our backs and hammered us, saying we'd played badly and we weren't even going to get through our group. Yet we still went on to win the World Cup.
And when England reached the semi-finals in 1990 under Bobby Robson's management, we drew the first game with the Republic of Ireland and everyone was saying what an anti-climax it was. So let's keep things in perspective. There were great expectations last night, but it's not the end of the world.
All the same, Fabio Capello now has a decision to make now for the next game, against Algeria next Friday night. Assuming David James is fit, should he play? I think Robert Green has probably made his mistake and is unlikely to repeat it. It depends on his state of mind, but on balance I'd just about stick with him.
All players make errors, whether it's a goalkeeper or an outfield player. It's just that if a keeper makes a mistake, there's no one there to cover it. It's unfortunate for Robert that it was an actual World Cup game but I hope he gets over it. He looks the sort of character to be able to recover. I suppose we'll have to wait and see what transpires in the week. I only hope the media don't slaughter him too much.
It is possible to win the World Cup with a jittery keeper. Brazil's performance in that classic 1970 final against Italy in Mexico was the best I've ever seen. They were the complete team – apart from the keeper, Felix, who was quite poor.
Brazil start their campaign this time against North Korea on Tuesday. I've been impressed by their keeper, Julio Cesar, who recently won the Champions' League with Inter Milan. The fact that Tottenham's Heurelho Gomes is only third-choice suggests they have a far greater depth these days.
At any level of football, if the defence can rely on the keeper to do his job without making silly errors, they can do their own jobs a lot better. In Brazil's case it means they're able to get involved in going forward, where they're always a threat.
Their players often come from the poorest families. These are people who live in the slums in real poverty. They've got nothing. They probably don't have televisions. So the children spend hours playing football, in the streets, on wasteland – and on the beach.
I remember England arriving in Rio de Janeiro to play Brazil. It was after midnight, but with the time difference, we didn't feel tired, so we went for a stroll along the sea front. On the beach there must have been a dozen games going on in the near-darkness. The kids had to learn to master the ball because of the uneven bounce when it hit the indentations their feet made in the sand.
They usually want to be outfield players, going past people and scoring goals rather than stopping them – which is probably why my old position has been Brazil's weakest link down the years.
When Jack chased Mexican fans...
I was interested to see England's base in South Africa. The hotel looks quiet and secluded, with security and excellent leisure facilities, including games consoles and widescreen TV. Quite a contrast with where we stayed in Mexico when we went to defend the World Cup.
We were in the Hilton in the centre of Guadalajara, and our rooms overlooked the street. The night before we played Brazil, the Mexicans were outside tooting their horns until 1.30am. It was a right racket and kept us awake until the police moved them on. I shared a room with Alex Stepney, and Alf Ramsey had put a 10.30pm curfew in place so we were in our room. A number of Mexicans came to our floor and banged on the lads' doors. I understand Jack Charlton chased them down the corridor.
Alf complained to Fifa and the Mexican government. I'm pleased the England team won't suffer any such distractions, and for the same reason I was glad Fabio Capello stopped the WAGs circus. When you're trying to win the World Cup you need to totally focus on the task ahead.
How dimples on gloves saved me
Fabio Capello took England to the Austrian Alps for two weeks to prepare for playing at altitude, so conditions in Rustenburg last night shouldn't have been a problem. It's all about reading the speed of the ball and realising it moves through the air quicker than at home.
We played at a similar point above sea level in Mexico in 1970. I found in training that I could get a hand to the ball but often couldn't keep it out. Then I saw a local game on TV where the keepers' gloves were like nothing I'd seen. They had dimples like a table-tennis bat. I did something none of the England boys in South Africa will be able to do. I jumped in a taxi and went to a sports shop.
No one recognised me and I got what I wanted. At the next practice session the shots that had been beating me began sticking. I'd never played in gloves on a dry day before.
As well as the thin air, we also had intense heat to contend with – I remember losing half a stone in one training session. I would certainly rather play in a South African winter than a Mexican summer.Reuse content